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Chambers v. The Township of Neptune

A-0981-09T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

REDEVELOPMENT; BLIGHT — The forty-five day limit within which a court challenge can be made to the designation of property as blighted runs from when the blight resolution is adopted, and not from the later date when the municipality adopts its redevelopment plan for the designated area.

A municipality designated five acres of land as in need of redevelopment. A resident, who participated as an objector at the board hearings, filed an action in lieu of prerogative writs challenging both the designation resolution and a subsequent ordinance adopting a redevelopment plan for the area.

The lower court found that the challenge to the resolution was untimely because it was not filed within forty-five days after the adoption as required by New Jersey law. In addressing the merits, the lower court rejected the resident’s contention that the municipality had premised its designation resolution solely on a finding that the land was underutilized, a method disapproved by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Rather, the lower court found substantiating valid reasons for each portion of the property, and found that the designation was not spot zoning. The lower court further quashed the resident’s argument that the planning board had acted arbitrarily in denying two objectors’ application for an adjournment to present live testimony from an expert whose report they had submitted; the resident was not one of the objectors and thus had no standing.

On appeal, the Appellate Division agreed substantially with the lower court’s finding that the resident was time-barred from bringing a challenge to the designation resolution. Here, the resident was not entitled to more time because there was no evidence that he represented a large constituency, there was no claim of eminent domain abuse, nor any claim of lack of notice of a plan involving condemnation, or other constitutional issue relating to the designation. Additionally, the Court found no merit in the resident’s argument that the forty-five day limit should not have started to run until the municipality adopted its redevelopment plan for the designated area. The resident cited no case law or legislative intent as support for that proposition.

The Court also dismissed the resident’s challenge of the subsequent redevelopment plan ordinance as without merit because the plan was adopted in conformity with New Jersey law and with detailed reasons to depart from the local master plan.

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