May 5, 2010
Re: Governor Signs S-82/A-437, Eliminates Time of Decision
In spite of overwhelming opposition, from the League, hundreds of local governments, the New Jersey Planning Officials, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Association of Environmental Commissions of New Jersey and the Conservation Foundation, Governor Christie today signed S-82/A-437, which eliminates the application of the time of decision rule by municipalities in land use applications.
We thank our partners and all of you for an unprecedented demonstration of unity in opposing legislation that undermines planning, local discretion in zoning and harms the public interest.
This new law grants protection to any Land Use application once it has been submitted for consideration to the municipal Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment. Only changes in ordinances vaguely defined as “…necessary for the protection of health and public safety…”can be implemented to protect the public welfare. Otherwise, such an application would then be immune from any changes in municipal ordinances.
The “time of decision” rule is a judicially-recognized principle that decisions are to be made on the basis of the laws, ordinances and regulations in effect at the time the decision is rendered. Courts have applied this rule to allow municipalities to rectify an error in a zoning ordinance, thus giving the governing body the opportunity to perfect a legislative policy decision. The rule has also permitted a municipality to give initial legislative consideration to serious and substantial land use planning concerns that, for whatever reasons, had not been previously addressed in their ordinances.
Throughout the legislative process, the League and other interested parties proposed compromise language, changing the standard from the time of submission to the either the start of the public hearing or at when an application is considered complete. These compromises were all rejected in favor of the new time of submission standard.
The law takes effect in one year. We encourage you to consult with your Planner and Attorney about a review of your land use ordinances during the year before the law takes effect. Further guidance on the implementation of the new law will be forthcoming.
Questions can be directed to Mike Cerra at (609) 695-3481 x120 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.