January 6, 2015
Today the New Jersey Supreme Court held oral argument on the Fair Share Housing Center’s (FSHC) motion to enforce litigant’s rights. FSHC, as well as the New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA) and representatives for other private developers, asked the Court to declare that municipalities are no longer protected from litigation by the COAH administrative process. Essentially, FSHC and the NJBA asked the Court for a return of the pre-Fair Housing Act years, which were marked by significant “builder’s remedy” litigation against municipalities. Ironically, it was the proliferation of litigation and the ensuing costs placed upon municipalities which led to the passage of the Fair Housing Act in the mid-1980s.
The League, represented by Edward J. Buzak, Esq. opposed the FSHC’s motion by asking that:
- The Court should afford COAH the opportunity to complete the task it started and either adopt the regulation as proposed, simultaneously propose any amendments or develop new regulations;
- In no event, should municipalities that have filed with the agency be stripped of the protection from builder’s remedy litigation; and
- If the Court determines that this issue must be resolved outside the agency, it should do so surgically, beginning with the body of regulations developed by COAH, and then return enforcement to the agency.
- If the Court does allow for court involvement, it should first allow municipalities to seek immunity from a trial court.
The League’s response brief is online at: http://www.njslom.org/legislation/NJLM_PDF111314.pdf.
League Executive Director Bill Dressel offered the following comments, “The best possible outcomes from the arguments today are for the Legislature and the Administration to begin its efforts to reform the Fair Housing Act and for COAH to schedule a meeting and resolve its impasse. We trust the Court will see that a return to the pre-Fair Housing Act era will only lead to unnecessary and cost prohibitive litigation to be borne by municipalities. Any involvement by the Court should be limited, surgical and maintain the immunity protections for municipalities (and by extension taxpayers) guaranteed by statute. Ultimately, however, a legislative solution to this impasse must be reached.
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William G. Dressel, Jr., Executive Director, (609) 695-3481, x122 or 609-915-9072.
Michael F. Cerra, Director of Government Affairs, (609) 695-3481 x120 or 609-532-2494
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