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Education and Health Centers of America, Inc. v. Town of Kearny

A-3694-03T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

ZONING; ORDINANCES—A zoning ordinance adopted just to keep out facilities that treat sexually violent predators is improper exclusionary zoning and invalid.

A treatment center for criminals submitted a proposal to the State to provide treatment for sexually violent predators (SVPs). Almost immediately after the center submitted its proposal, the municipality in which the center was located enacted an ordinance prohibiting the use of any premises or building in the municipality for housing SVPs. The center then sued the municipality, claiming that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

The municipality defended its conduct by claiming that the ordinance was consistent with the municipality’s redevelopment plans, and that the housing of SVPs within the municipality would be a hindrance to those plans.

The Appellate Division ruled in favor of the center, holding that the municipality provided no proof that the housing of SVP’s in the municipality would hinder any redevelopment plans. It also confirmed that the ordinance was unreasonable, discriminatory, invalid, inequitable, capricious, arbitrary, and unconstitutional because the municipality merely enacted it for the purpose of keeping the center from treating certain types of people – and this amounted to exclusionary zoning. Additionally, the Court held that the center was neither required to exhaust its administrative remedies nor apply for a variance before it sued the municipality.

For the foregoing reasons and because the proposed use of the center would serve the general interests of the community, the Court affirmed the lower court’s invalidation of the ordinance.

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