Governor Murphy signed the Permit Extension Act of 2020 (the “Act”) into law, automatically suspending the running of the period of eligible permits and approvals during the “COVID-19 Extension Period.” The COVID-19 Extension Period is defined as the time period beginning on March 9, 2020, and continuing for as long as a public health emergency has been declared by the Governor in response to COVID-19 and is in effect. This suspension will not shorten the duration of any permit or approval to a duration less than it otherwise would have had in the absence of the Act, and extends any permit or approval for at least six months beyond the end of the COVID-19 Extension Period.
The original bill for the Act would have had the COVID-19 Extension Period continue for as long as a public health emergency or a state of emergency, or both, has been declared by the Governor in response to COVID-19 and is in effect. Governor Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill due to concerns that a state of emergency could last years, even after the adverse impacts of the pandemic on the economy have improved, because of the “unprecedented and myriad impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have on the State.” Therefore, Governor Murphy recommended to limit the COVID-19 Extension Period to just the public health emergency. Governor Murphy also recommended to eliminate a clause that would have allowed the Permit Extension Act of 2020 to extend a permit or approval to twelve months after the end of the COVID-19 Extension Period in the case of construction projects suspended by Executive Order 122 or by an order of a State, County, or municipal government agency.
After the conditional veto, the Assembly and State voted unanimously to revise the Act to incorporate the changes recommended by the Governor. Governor Murphy then quickly signed the Act into law.
Similar to the previous iterations of Permit Extension Acts, the Act does not prohibit a government agency from granting any extensions of a permit or approval that may otherwise be provided for by law. The Act, however, makes clear that it does not extend the time period of any permits or approvals that expired before March 9, 2020, and were not extended. Permits and approvals are subject to extension on an individual basis. If an activity or project is the subject of multiple permits, the extension of any one permit or approval is independent of the extension of any other permit or approval for the same activity or project.
The only changes to the list of eligible permits and approvals by the Act from previous iterations of the Permit Extension Act are: (1) the deletion from the list of exemptions from the Act of any permits or approvals issued within an environmentally sensitive area, and (2) the inclusion of any registration, application, or licensing requirement or timeframe imposed pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:1E-127.1, et al., applicable to a person who performs soil and fill recycling services related to road or bridge construction activities.
State agencies must place a notice in the New Jersey Register tolling permits and approvals within 30 days after the effective date of the Act. The permit or approval must then be registered with the State department within 30 days of the notice in the New Jersey Register, and then the department must publish on its website a list of the tolled permits and approvals within 14 days of receipt of the registration. Importantly, Section 12.c. of the Act states that the “running period of any approval not registered pursuant to this section  shall not be suspended for the COVID-19 extension period.” Section 12 does not provide any specific way for an applicant to contact a State agency to advise that it erroneously did not include the applicant’s permit or approval. An applicant that was granted an eligible permit or approval from a State agency may want to proactively contact the State agency before 30 days after the effective date of the Act to ensure the State agency includes the permit or approval in its notice.
Finally, certain deadlines under the Municipal Land Use Law are extended for applications awaiting certification as a complete application as of March 9, 2020, applications pending before a planning board or zoning board of adjustment as of March 9, 2020, and applications submitted by an applicant during the COVID-19 Extension Period. The 45-day period for an application for development to be deemed complete is extended to the later of either 120 days after March 9, 2020, or 60 days after the application is submitted to the municipal agency. The time period within which a planning board or a zoning board of adjustment (or combined board) must either grant or deny an application of development that was awaiting certification as a complete application as of March 9, 2020 or pending before a planning board or zoning board of adjustment as of March 9, 2020 is extended by 120 days. The time period within which a planning board or a zoning board of adjustment (or combined board) must either grant or deny an application of development that was submitted during the COVID-19 extension period is extended to either 120 days after March 9, 2020, or 60 days after the application was deemed complete, whichever date is later.
To view the legislation (S2346/A3919) in its entirety, please click here.