As the New Year begins, we will be taking a look back at the public law developments that took place in 2015. In the area of land use, there were a number of legal developments that impacted both public entities and private developers.
Below is a brief recap of some of our most important blog posts:
Affordable Housing Lawsuits
Issues surrounding the state’s affordable housing requirements were a major issue in 2015 and will continue to evolve in the coming year. On March 10, the Supreme Court of New Jersey transferred the administration of affordable housing rules back to the courts. In doing so, the court effectively stripped the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) of any power after failing to promulgate affordable housing rules. Under the order, the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) or any other interested party may file a challenge to a town’s constitutional compliance against a municipality. This summer, a Middlesex County judge issued the first affordable housing ruling under the new legal scheme articulated by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Superior Court Judge Douglas Wolfson’s decision in In The Matter of Adoption of Monroe Twp. Hous. Element & Fair Share Plan and Implementing Ordinances was recently upheld by the Appellate Division.
Cell Tower Siting Applications
In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Georgia municipality in T-Mobile South LLC v. City of Roswell, which involved the city’s denial of a cell tower application. The Court held that the federal Telecommunications Act mandates that municipalities provide a written explanation when denying a request, and that the explanation must be issued essentially contemporaneously with notice of the denial.
Challenging Land Use Ordinances
In Griepenburg v. Township of Ocean, the Supreme Court of New Jersey addressed the power of municipalities to zone property consistent with their Master Plan and Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) goals. It held that plaintiffs must exhaust their administrative remedies before being able to attack municipal land use ordinances in court, which represented a dramatic change in the law and may preclude challenges brought for the sole purpose of challenging the validity of a land use ordinance.
Conflicts of Interest in Development Approvals
In Grabowsky v. Twp. of Montclair, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that municipal officials could be disqualified from voting on redevelopment matters if they belong to organizations that may be impacted by the project. Under the newly established conflict of interest rule, when a public official serves in a substantive leadership role in an organization that brings or opposes a zoning application or that is the owner of property within 200 feet of the property in dispute, he or she is precluded from voting on the matter.
Permit Extension Act to Sunset
In 2008, New Jersey first passed the Permit Extension Act, which suspends the running of the period of any covered permit or approval in existence during the “extension period.” Although the statute has been extended several times, given that the New Jersey legislature has taken no further action, it will likely sunset at the end of the year. For local governments and developers, it is imperative to begin the process of assessing the expiration dates of permits that were previously subject to the Permit Extension Act.
To learn more about the New Jersey land use developments discussed above, we encourage you to click through to the relevant blog post. You can also contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s public law practice with any questions regarding how the developments may impact your municipality or agency.