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William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director
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Legal Q & A

 

Valuation of Condemned
Property and the Videotaping
of Public Meetings


Deborah M. Kole
League Staff Attorney
books
Deborah M. Kole, League Staff Attorney

Q I own a large farm on which I live with my family. Five years ago, a judgment of repose was entered concerning this property so that the municipality could use it to fulfill its affordable housing obligations. Nothing further happened until a month ago, when a complaint in condemnation was finally filed by the municipality. We had long ago realized that this would happen eventually, and so the taking of the property itself does not bother us. However, the value of the property has increased significantly over the past five years, and yet the town wants to value it as of the date the judgment of repose was entered. It does not seem fair that after all these years of delay by the municipality we should be prevented from having the benefit of the real estate inflation that occurred in the interim. Is it worth the effort to dispute this valuation?

A If the increase in the value of the property is really due solely to inflation, a recent New Jersey Supreme Court case supports your view of the appropriate date of valuation. In Mount Laurel Township v. Stanley, Docket Number a-103-104 (2005), concerning a similar fact pattern, the Court noted that N.J.S.A. 20:3-30 establishes the time for valuation of condemned property to be the earliest of four alternative dates. They are 1) the date possession is taken by the condemnor, 2) the date of the filing of the condemnation complaint, 3) the date of the filing of a declaration of blight or the expiration of the appeal period for removal of a designation of abandoned property and 4) the date on which action is taken by the condemnor that substantially affects the use and enjoyment of the property by the condemnee.

In that case, as in yours, alternatives 1) and 3) were clearly inapplicable. The municipality claimed that the date the judgment of repose was entered was the appropriate date for valuation, under alternative 4). The Court, however, sided with the property owner’s position that the date of the filing of the complaint of condemnation five years later was the correct valuation date under alternative 2). The municipality’s action in having a judgment of repose entered did not affect the value of the property, the Court pointed out, and, in fact, the increase in value was caused solely by inflation. Therefore the earliest applicable date was alternative 2), the filing of the complaint of condemnation, and the property must be valued as of that date.

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Q I am on the municipal council, and one of our residents wants to videotape our meetings for personal use. None of the council members had a problem with his doing so, and so he videotaped one meeting without incident. However, at the next meeting, an unusually large number of residents attended, and some of them objected to being videotaped. We asked him to move so that he would only capture the council members on video, not the residents in the audience, but he objected and said that we were violating his constitutional right to free speech. Were we violating his rights, and, if so, how do we avoid doing so without discouraging other residents who want to speak out at meetings, but do not want to be recorded on his unofficial videotape?

A In  recent decisions, the Third Circuit and the New Jersey Appellate Division have held that there is no constitutional right under the United States or the New Jersey Constitutions to videotape municipal meetings. No such federal right has ever been recognized (Whiteland Woods, L.P. v. Township of Whiteland, 193 F.3d 177 (3rd Cir.1999); Tarus v. Borough of Pine Hill, 105 App’x 357 (3rd Cir.2004). Although the New Jersey Constitution’s protection of free speech is broader than first amendment protection under the federal constitution, a recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision found no state constitutional protection of the right to videotape such meetings.

Although the New Jersey Court noted that there may be a common law right to make such recordings under the holding of a 1984 case, Maurice River Twp. Board of Education v. Maurice River Twp. Teachers’ Association, 193 NJ Super 488 (App.Div.), any such right is subject to reasonable government regulation and control. In the Pine Hill case, the Appellate Division found that requiring the plaintiff to change locations so that he would not be videotaping members of the audience was such a reasonable restriction on this activity and not arbitrary or capricious

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This column is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as legal advice.

 

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