Pro Se Redevelopment Challenges Unsuccessful in Union City

by: Joseph Grather
26 Feb 2018

Two recent Appellate Division cases rejected the arguments of a pro se party challenging Union City’s efforts to redevelop “blighted areas”.  Both cases are captioned Larry Price v. Union City.  The first opinion issued on December 21, 2017 and the second February 13, 2018. Links to the full text are below.

Price v Union City Dec 2017

Price v. Union City 2018

Both are unpublished and both confirm that an “in need of redevelopment” designation must be supported by substantial evidence in the record.  In the 2017 case, the trial court reversed the blight designation, finding that there was insubstantial evidence in the record to support the designation.

The appellate division found otherwise, and reversed and essentially reinstated the designation:

“Here, we are satisfied that the Report, coupled with Spatz’s unrebutted testimony, provided the required substantial evidence to support the Board’s classification as a non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment under criterion (d). The Report found criterion (d) applied based upon Spatz’s testimony that the basement flooding in the rectory would affect the electrical system in the building; based upon the probable presence of lead paint, which posed a danger to the occupants (and, we add, to those members of the community who visited the rectory); and based upon the potential for collapse due to the cracked foundation.” [slip op at 11.]

In the second case, both trial and appellate courts agreed that there was substantial record evidence to support the designation:

The appellate court summarized:

“The Report extensively details each building’s deterioration and dilapidation. The Report describes the properties as “vacant and unproductive,” which is “detrimental to the health, safety, morals and welfare of the community.” All of the buildings are in poor condition, and most have significant damage and are uninhabitable without significant renovation. The damage to each building includes defective roof shingles, retaining walls above the cliffs in the rear of the properties, electrical panels, hot water heaters, chimneys, windows, and support beams. Interior water damage has caused mold and extensive interior and exterior damage exists.” [slip op at 6].

In both cases, it appears that the challenger did not offer independent expert testimony of the condition of the properties and the applicability of the blight criteria.  Perhaps that was the fatal flaw.