Newark Trucking Facility Not Blighted
A Newark property owner, CD Development, LLC, challenged a 2005 blight designation which led to its property being designated as an area in need of redevelopment. The five acre property is used as an active trucking facility. Newark’s planning expert concluded the property satisfied the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) criteria in N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(e), the only section relied upon by the expert, because the property was not being fully utilized to its maximum potential. Another property owner’s expert discussed the property in his comprehensive report which countered that the property had never been cited for code violations or tax delinquencies, and that inspections of the property showed a thriving and active trucking operation. Newark City Council adopted its Planning Board’s recommendation with providing any supporting findings of fact.
The property owner challenged the blight designation by the Newark City Council, and the trial court agreed that the designation was not supported by substantial evidence in the record, leading to the invalidation of the redevelopment designation. Newark’s designated redeveloper then appealed, argued that the trial court should have considered sua sponte that the evidence supported a blight designation under other subsections of N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5, and that the trial court should have given deference to the City Council’s determination. The Appellate Division disagreed with the redeveloper, and affirmed the trial court’s decision substantially for the reasons given by the trial court in its oral opinion. The Appellate Division noted that the Supreme Court’s decision in Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007), which was decided during the pendency of this matter’s trial court action, prohibited a blight finding under subsection (e) unless the “stagnant and not fully productive” use of the property was related to title or ownership issues, and that no evidence was provided by any party to support such a finding. Thus, the trial court had correctly decided that the property could not be included in the redevelopment area under the LRHL.
A copy of the Appellate Division’s opinion can be found here.
The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Cory K. Kestner, Esq., of McKirdy & Riskin, PA, in the preparation of this article.