Community Owners: A Must Read for All

Beware…

Community Owners Should be Aware of New Jersey Redevelopment Laws

As a legal practitioner who has been specializing in representing manufactured home land lease communities, I was aware of the Redevelopment law in New Jersey because of other clients’ involvement with it.  I have not seen one of my Manufactured Housing clients’ properties become involved in a “redevelopment plan” in 26 years of practice.  In the last two years, five of my clients’ properties have been located in redevelopment zones with some of them now being “optimum redevelopment projects”.

Under New Jersey’s redevelopment laws, municipalities (and other governmental entities) have the right to adopt a redevelopment plan. The purpose of this law was to allow municipalities to use special powers, including eminent domain, to acquire property, and then have the properties redeveloped as part of a renewal project.  Most of the readers of this article probably grew up hearing the phrase “urban renewal.”  These laws certainly have a valid public purpose in that very general sense.

However, recent redevelopment efforts by municipalities involve efforts by municipalities to either use eminent domain, or give the eminent domain power to a redevelopment agency which will condemn the property and then re-convey it or sell it to a private redeveloper who will put the property to another use.

In some examples, the “redevelopment” involves condemning older less valuable residential property (even those which are being well-maintained) and allowing a redeveloper to come in and build brand new high-end very expensive housing.

The recent case from the United States Supreme Court Kelo v. City of New London has confirmed that such redevelopment schemes are actually furthering a “public use”.  In accordance with the United States Constitution, and some state constitutions that is the limited permissible purpose of use of the eminent domain power.

What every community owner should be aware of is that there are redevelopment laws on the books in the State of New Jersey.  One hidden pitfall in these rules and statutes relates to proceedings which may occur at the early stages of the redevelopment process.  One of the first steps in the redevelopment process is a finding by the planning board, which makes a recommendation to the governing body, that redevelopment is appropriate to the area, consistent with certain statutory criteria.  In that process, affected property owners should be given notice of the planning board proceedings.  In a little known statutory provision, there is a requirement that if you object to your property being included as part of the redevelopment project, you must give written notice to the planning board in advance of their making a decision in connection with the plan.  While the preclusive effects of this rule is subject to debate (because of the almost obvious unfairness in such a precipitous process whereby one might lose one’s rights to challenge a municipal redevelopment decision) there is law on the books in the State of New Jersey which indicates that you will lose your rights to challenge the determination made by the planning board and/or the municipal governing body related to the redevelopment plan if you do not submit a written objection to the planning board in advance of their decision making process.

In addition, participating at the early Planning Board stage of redevelopment proceedings will give you an opportunity to make a record against the plan which can be used successfully in court, and you may even be able to convince the Board or the Governing Body that the plan is inappropriate, or the inclusion of your property in it is inappropriate.

Therefore, for those of you who get caught up in the redevelopment process be aware that you should immediately contact your attorney in connection with your rights related to these proceedings.  In that regard, whether or not you consult counsel, you must submit a written objection (preferably using certified mail, return receipt requested) to the planning board in advance of their meeting to object to your property being included in the redevelopment zone.

You can always withdraw the objection.  You can always decide not to challenge their decision to adopt the redevelopment plan.  First and foremost preserve your rights by going on record with this objection.  New Jersey redevelopment law has radically changed since 2008.

By Christopher J. Hanlon, Esq., a NJ Redevelopment and Landlord/Tenant Attorney

If you have a redevelopment issue, please feel free to contact me at chanlon@hnlawfirm.com or call toll-free (855) 376-5291.