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Township of South Brunswick v. Stouts Lane Associates, Inc.

A-3141-01T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

DEVELOPERS; SUBDIVISION—Where approval of a subdivision requires reservation of a right-of-way for highway purposes, it can be assumed that there was an intent to dedicate the land and the cognizant governmental authority is entitled to take the land without paying for it.

A developer proposed a subdivision of one lot into three separate parcels. Two of the parcels were set aside for development and the balance of the land was designated as “Proposed County Route 522 and jughandle.” The plan of “Minor Subdivision” showed the area as reserved for highway improvements and a jug handle intersection. The application was approved and memorialized by a resolution. The County Planning Board then conditionally approved the subdivision, requiring “a reservation of right-of-way for the overpass involved with” the proposed intersection. Then, a deed was recorded creating a subdivision, specifically making reference to the approved minor subdivision. At that time, and for about two years thereafter, the “extra” piece of land remained unused. In fact, it was assigned a tax identification number by the municipal tax assessor.

Eventually, the municipality advised a successor owner that the municipality would be condemning the “extra” parcel as well as other property owned by the property owner for the purpose of actually constructing a jug handle at the highway intersection. Two months later, after locating the deeds that indicated that the property was to be dedicated to the municipality, the municipality withdrew its offer and asserted that it was entitled to the land “without paying any compensation because the dedication was a condition of approval of a minor subdivision granted” to the property owner’s predecessor in title. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the municipality. The Appellate Division agreed. It was clear from the minor subdivision map, the resolution granting the minor subdivision, and the deed stating that it was “for the sole purpose of lodging of record and perfecting a certain minor subdivision,” that the land in question was actually dedicated for the jug handle access. In New Jersey, “an intent to dedicate may be assumed when (1) a real estate developer plats a tract of land into building lots; (2) prepares a map disclosing streets abutting these lots; and (3) conveys by reference to the map to a purchaser who relies thereon.” In this case, the attempt to dedicate was clearly discernable and the municipality was entitled to the land without any requirement that it pay for it.

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