Skip to main content



City of Long Branch v. Anzalone

A-0067-06T2, A-0191-06T2, A-0192-06T2, A-0195-06T2, A-0198-06T2, and A-0654-06T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

CONDEMNATION; REDEVELOPMENT — The New Jersey Constitution requires a finding of substantial evidence of actual blight before private property may be taken for the purposes of redevelopment, meaning that there must be a finding of physical or social deterioration to the point where an area is threatened to become intractable.

Homeowners challenged a municipality’s declaration that its residential area was in need of redevelopment pursuant to an adopted redevelopment plan. They also appealed a lower court judgment allowing the municipality to appoint condemnation commissioners for purposes of taking the homeowners’ land pursuant to eminent domain. The residential area in question consisted of mainly single-family homes occupied by long-term owners. A preliminary report on the redevelopment plan did not cite the quality of these homes as a reason to replace them. Rather, it made a blanket observation that there was a great variation in the quality and condition of the buildings. Similarly, two later studies involved only exterior observations of the dwellings. On this basis, the municipality concluded that the area met a redevelopment criterion that the generality of the buildings was in sufficiently poor condition as to be conducive to unwholesome living or working conditions. The homeowners challenged the municipality’s declaration as to the condition of the properties, asserting that no interior inspections ever took place. The homeowners argued that blighted properties and vacant lots not amenable to private redevelopment must predominate for an area to be declared in need of redevelopment, and that the possibility of more profitable uses alone is not enough. This argument was raised on appeal after the lower court found in favor of the municipality.

The Appellate Division first noted that the New Jersey Constitution requires a finding of substantial evidence of actual blight before private property may be taken for the purpose of redevelopment. Here, it found no blight on the record. It defined “blight” as requiring a finding of physical or social deterioration to the point where an area is threatened to become intractable. The Court believed the municipality had exercised eminent domain based on findings supported by an expert’s net opinion – that is the report simply described the physical status of properties to be taken, rather than analyzed the statutory criteria as applied to each individual property in the designated redevelopment area or how each property’s condition reflected or contributed to the area’s blight.

The Court, however, found that substantial activity had occurred in implementing the redevelopment plan, such that fairness dictated the matter be remanded to afford the municipality an opportunity to amplify the record in an effort to meet the heightened standard of blight.


MEISLIK & MEISLIK
66 Park Street • Montclair, New Jersey 07042
tel: 973-783-3000 • fax: 973-744-5757 • info@meislik.com