Search Site
Menu
Eminent Domain can be used to preserve property

Aug. 3, 2005

TOWNSHIP USED EMINENT DOMAIN TO HALT BUILDING OF 23 HOUSES

By Carol Comegno

A municipality can condemn property through eminent domain to preserve it as open space and halt development, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division’s ruling overturned a lower court’s verdict regarding Mount Laurel’s decision in 2002 to condemn the vacant 16-acre High Pointe tract owned by MiPro Homes LLC.

The developer already had obtained planning board approval to build 23 homes and started construction for utilities. But the township acted legally when it condemned the land and did not need to determine a specific preservation use because preservation in itself is a public purpose, the court ruled.

Local officials and environmental groups praised the decision, but the developer called it disastrous.

“We’re elated,” said Mount Laurel Mayor Gerry Nardello. “Hopefully we can move on and go on pursuing more open space.”

“It’s wonderful for Mount Laurel and other local governments that want to preserve property,” added attorney Michael Mouber, who argued the case for the township.

But Jeffrey Baron, an attorney for MiPro, described the decision as “sadly, one step from socialism” and vowed to ask the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.

“This decision undoes 60 years of zoning and planning in the state in one fell swoop,” Baron said. “It disregards completely the need for open space and concentrates only on the municipality’s right to take property — not because it needs it but because it wants it.”

In addition to overturning a ruling by Superior Court Judge John Sweeney, the three-judge appellate opinion eliminated a $219,815 penalty Sweeney ordered Mount Laurel to pay the developer for misusing  eminent domain, levied because the township had no specific use for the property except to halt sprawl.ADVERTISEMENT — CLICK TO ENLARGE OR
VISIT WEBSITE

Sweeney must now appoint a commission to determine the market value of the property, which is at Hainesport-Mount Laurel Road and Elbo Lane.

The township had offered MiPro $2.2 million for the land based on market appraisals several years ago.

The appeals court cited a statutory history of preservation in New Jersey to conserve natural resources for passive recreation, as well as three referendums approved by Mount Laurel voters for open space since 1998.

“Conservation of land for open space is a public use even though the government agency acquiring the land has no plans to put the property to active use,” the court said.

Open space may serve the public interest through recreation, or by preventing development that may lead to congestion and pollution and put a strain on schools or other municipal services, the court ruled.

“This is an important victory for open space and towns determining their own destinies,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “If we can condemn land for a mall as a redevelopment zone, we should be able to condemn land for open space.”

William Kearns, an attorney for the New Jersey League of Municipalities, which joined the township in the suit, said the ruling is significant because it clarifies open space preservation as a valid use if for no other reason than “just to sit there.”

A spokesman for Save Our Homes, a South Jersey citizens group that has opposed the use of eminent domain for redevelopment in Camden, declined comment. An attorney for the Builders League of South Jersey, one of the defendants with MiPro, could not be reached.

Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or [email protected]

Copyright 2005 Courier-Post.

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • New Jersey sets emergency water standards for new chemicals. https://t.co/trgaaLL1mD
    5 months ago
  • How will New Jersey manage stormwater as the climate changes and flooding increases? https://t.co/dhVLALyzZ2
    5 months ago
  • Unprecedented storms are slamming NJ – learn how to be the best advocate for your clients when the next flood hits.… https://t.co/TicH6iAjP0
    5 months ago
  • Trenton Water Works has removed 25 percent of lead pipes throughout its service area. https://t.co/KUvhMsJlvU
    5 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

Supreme Court concludes that attorney review period is not a requirement of absolute auction contracts

On June 9, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously decided that attorney review period is not a required contractual provision for a residential real estate sale by absolute auction.
Read More
Supreme Court concludes that attorney review period is not a requirement of absolute auction contracts

It Depends on the Language – The Non-Disparagement Clause

How enforceable is a non-disparagement clause in an agreement? As is always the case with any contract or agreement, it depends on the language. On May 31, 2022, the Appellate Division
Read More
It Depends on the Language – The Non-Disparagement Clause

DCA Tries Again to Use RSIS to Limit Municipal Stormwater Controls

By Michele Donato, Esq. and Stuart Lieberman, Esq. In the 1990’s, developers claimed that municipal residential development ordinances lacked uniformity, increased development costs, and caused uncertainty in the development process. In
Read More
DCA Tries Again to Use RSIS to Limit Municipal Stormwater Controls

Previous Property Manager Charged with Embezzling and Laundering Stolen Funds from Hamilton Park CO-OP.

Nicolas DePaola of Ewing New Jersey was indicted on twelve charges for embezzling and laundering stolen money from his prior client, Hamilton Park CO-OP. On April 1, 2022, a Mercer
Read More
Previous Property Manager Charged with Embezzling and Laundering Stolen Funds from Hamilton Park CO-OP.

In The Media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules

    NJ.com Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form