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Britwood Urban Renewal, LLC v. City of Asbury Park

376 N.J. Super. 552, 871 A.2d 129 (App. Div. 2005)

REDEVELOPMENT; OFF-SITE CONTRIBUTIONS — The New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law authorizes a municipality to impose costs for off-site contributions to redevelopers only, and not property owners seeking to renovate their property within areas zoned for redevelopment.

A limited liability company purchased a thirty-one unit apartment building. The municipality in which the property was located sought to redevelop the area in which the building was located. It adopted an ordinance authorizing the redevelopment. The ordinance designated the company’s building as historical, and exempted the property from condemnation if its owner began renovating the building within one year after the ordinance was adopted. Within this time frame, the company applied to the municipal planning board for preliminary and final site approval to renovate the property. During the hearing on the application, the company’s attorney asserted that the company should not be required to contribute to off-site improvements because it was rehabilitating the building as opposed to building a new development. Counsel also argued that without the appropriate ordinance, the company could not be ordered to make off-site contributions. The planning board’s attorney agreed, and the board approved the company’s application. Shortly thereafter, the municipal council adopted a resolution which required property owners who were rehabilitating properties located within the redevelopment zone, such as the company, to contribute to off-site improvements. An ordinance was then passed by the council to this effect. The company filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs against the municipality and its council, asserting that the resolution and ordinance were invalid. It contended that the resolution was invalid because it usurped the power of the planning board to review and approve site-plan applications, and violated the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL). The municipality and its council moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the lower court. It held that the New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) grants general authority to the municipality to impose off-site infrastructure costs on developers who commence projects within the redevelopment area. It further held that the LRHL was not inconsistent with the MLUL, which also permits the municipality to adopt regulations regarding off-site infrastructure contributions. It also ruled that the ordinance was a valid exercise of the municipality’s authority in spite of the planning board’s approval of the company’s site plan. The property owner appealed.

The Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s decision. It held that under the LRHL, the municipality lacked the authority to impose off-site improvements on the company because of the statutory language that limits the imposition of these types of improvements to redevelopers. It found that the property owner did not qualify as a redeveloper because it had not entered into a contract with the municipality to perform any redevelopment, rehabilitation or other work. It concluded that the company was merely a property owner seeking municipal approval to renovate its building and not a redeveloper required to contribute to off-site improvements. It further found that the LRHL is not superceded by the MLUL, which governs the review and approval of site-plan applications. It also held that both Acts vest the authority to decide site-plan applications in the municipal planning board.


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