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Appellate Division Rejects Property Owner Challenge to Condemnation Designation as Out of Time Under Local Housing Redevelopment Law

A Lindenwold woman was out of time to challenge her property’s condemnation designation when she did not challenge the condemnation until three years after the land use board passed a resolution recommending the designation, the Appellate Division held this April.

In Borough of Lindenwold v. Mildred Jackson et al., Docket No. A-1308-20 (App. Div. April 6, 2022), a Borough of Lindenwold property owner, Mildred Jackson, challenged the Law Division’s final judgment granting condemnation of her property to the Borough.

The Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) empowers municipalities to designate property as “in need of redevelopment”, which allows the municipality to acquire the property via eminent domain. N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-3. Jackson’s property was part of an area designated as a Condemnation Redevelopment Area after a public hearing in April 2017 held by the Borough Joint Land Use Board. The Board adopted a resolution on April 27, 2017, recommending the designation, and the Borough adopted the recommendation by resolution on May 10, 2017. The Borough sent Jackson a copy of the Borough’s resolution adopting the recommendation, which was sent on May 17 and accepted by certified mail on June 16.

In 2019, the Borough adopted a redevelopment plan that required the acquisition of Jackson’s property, and the Court entered an order to show cause why condemnation should not be granted. In February 2020, Jackson filed a motion requesting the Borough “clearly define” the public purpose of the condemnation and objecting to the designation.

The Appellate Division held that Jackson was time-barred from challenging the public purpose of the property, since she only had 45 days after she received the Borough’s notice of resolution to bring a challenge. LRHL allows a property owner 45 days to object to a redevelopment determination. N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-6. In addition, Rule 4:69-6(a) provides that an action in lieu of prerogative writs must be brought within 45 days.

The Appellate Division also held that the court had no potential bias against Jackson, where Jackson’s niece – who was not an attorney but appeared on Jackson’s behalf in court – had previously brought unrelated claims against the judge.

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