Recently, the Appellate Division issued a ruling in Borough of Glassboro v. Grossman, et al. interpreting key provisions of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. More specifically this published decision examined N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-8(c) which authorizes a municipality or a redevelopment agency to acquire by condemnation lands or buildings which are “necessary for the redevelopment project.” The question before the court was what shows, if any, of necessity, must a condemning authority make in order to take property within a redevelopment zone?
Ultimately, the court ruled that whenever an attempted condemnation by a municipality or redeveloper is challenged, the condemning authority must articulate a definitive need for the property. Further, the condemning authority claiming a need for the property must justify its need through supporting proof, the court finding it is not enough to establish necessity simply by stating it.
While acknowledging that evidential possibilities are open-ended, the court provided an illustrative list of ways that necessity could be proven through discrete facts or data, including; reports from a planner, engineer, or traffic consultant; architectural plans or drawings; or a market study or economic forecast.
Additionally, the court specifically rejected the argument that the condemning authority can satisfy the necessity requirement “by simply declaring that it wishes to stockpile a parcel for some possible future need in the redevelopment area.” Ruling instead, that there must be a particular redevelopment project identified and tied to the proposed acquisition. Perhaps recognizing that redevelopment projects take time and evolve over that period to include changes in plans, the court clarified that the particular project identified in the original acquisition can be changed after the acquisition occurs, so long as the original taking was justified and pursued in good faith.
You should review this ruling with your municipal attorney for more information on how it will impact your municipality’s potential and current redevelopment projects.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, FMarshall@njslom.org or 609-695-3481 x 137.