Saturday, April 17, 2010

A 'do-over' for NJ town on eminent domain?

 Long Branch

From today's
Asbury Park Press:

LONG BRANCH — A state appellate panel has ruled the city improperly declared the lower Broadway area blighted, writing that the city's 1996 plan was not consistent with new "heightened" standards set forth in a 2007 state Supreme Court case.

The panel, however, also gave the city the right to revise the plan in an effort to see if it can comply with the newer standards, which require not merely a cosmetic detailing of blight but proof the blight is affecting surrounding neighborhoods before a government agency can use the controversial power of eminent domain.

The Appellate Division of Superior Court had ruled similarly in the much-publicized Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace Seaview Avenue — or MTOTSA — case, which was largely settled last year.

But the Broadway Arts Center decision released today went beyond that finding, said lawyer Peter H. Wegener, who also is representing the three property owners who challenged the Broadway blight designation.

"This is a good win," said Wegener, saying he wished he had had such a thorough finding when he represented MTOTSA. "They went one step further here and declared the ordinances illegal. . . .

"They've (city officials) got to start from the beginning," he said.

Will Long Branch try to fix its eminent domain approach and try again?

"The legal and political reality is eminent domain is completely dead, and that is fine," said Mayor Adam Schneider. "I don't see us using it again there or in (Broadway) Gateway.


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