Eminent Domain Bill Clears Senate Committee, Would Update Redevelopment Procedures

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
7 Mar 2013

Legislation that would rework some of the procedures used by local governments to their redevelopment powers cleared a State Senate committee earlier this week.  The bill, S-2447, codifies certain protections to property owners which were decided in court decisions in recent years, and also would provide a negotiation alternative to using eminent domain in local redevelopment projects.

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee voted 5-0 for the bill, which is sponsored by committee chairman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, and Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex.  It shares some of the provisions which had been included in earlier legislative efforts by Senator Rice that failed to pass before the full Senate two years ago.

S-2447 codifies Gallenthin Realty Development Inc. v. Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007), in which the New Jersey Supreme Court held that a blight determination requires a finding of a “deterioration or stagnation that has a decadent effect on surrounding property,” which could not ordinarily be applied to a large tract of vacant land.  The Gallenthin scrutinized the then-common use of municipalities in New Jersey of a standard in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.SA. 40A:12A-5(e) — a “stagnant or not fully productive condition”  to justify that an area was blighted, or “in need of redevelopment”.

S-2447 also codifies Harrison Redevelopment Agency v. DeRose, 398 N.J. Super. 361 (App. Div. 2008), in which an appeals court held adequate written notice of condemnation for redevelopment needs to be provided during the redevelopment planning process.

The other significant provision in the bill, and its companion bill in the State Assembly (A-3615),   is that local governments will be given an option as to whether they will be empowered to use eminent domain to acquire properties in redevelopment areas.

“The bill says municipalities can go with Option A or Option B,” says Michael Cerra, the senior legislative analyst with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.

If enacted, this bill could help to spur redevelopment in certain areas without having to threaten the property rights of the existing owners.

The companion bill in the Assembly is scheduled for consideration in the Assembly Economic Development and Commerce Committee today.

PolitickerNJ reported on the bill earlier this week in this article.

Stay tuned for more on this legislative development.