March 10, 2015
League Statement on NJ Supreme Court Ruling
The New Jersey Supreme Court has issued its ruling in response to 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. This request was made following COAH’s failure to comply with a previous Court ruling, requiring the agency to adopt Third Round regulations. 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. The League, represented by Edward J. Buzak, Esq., opposed the FSHC motion. Jonathan Drill, Esq. and Jeffrey Surenian, Esq also represented municipalities before the Court. The League is guided through these efforts by the Mayors’ Housing Policy Committee, which is co-chaired by the Hon. Janice S. Mironov, League Past President, Mayor, East Windsor and the Hon. Colleen Mahr, League Executive Board, Mayor, Fanwood Borough.
The Supreme Court did order that exclusionary zoning disputes will be heard by the courts, effectively bypassing the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH); however, the Court accepted the arguments put forth by the League and other municipal advocates that municipalities should not be punished for COAH’s failure to act. Accordingly, the Court’s ruling established a process and timeline for municipalities to voluntarily go to the Courts via “declaratory judgment actions.” Effectively municipalities will have 120 days to go to the Courts voluntarily and seek protection from builders remedy actions. In doing so, the Court instructed that the trial courts "should be generously inclined to grant applications for immunity from subsequently filed exclusionary zoning actions during that necessary review process, unless such process is unreasonably protracted."
The Hon Brian C. Wahler, President of the League and Mayor of Piscataway Township, offered the following comments:
“We appreciate the Court’s recognition that municipalities should not be punished for COAH’s failure to act, allowing municipalities breathing room to voluntarily comply and be protected from costly litigation. The motion before the Court was to expose municipalities to builders’ remedy litigation immediately, and the Court agreed with the League’s objections. However, at the same time the Court again invited the State Legislature to address the issue. Going back to the Courts will still be costly and is not a viable solution; a solution can only and must be offered by the Administration and the Legislature in a timely fashion.”
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Brian C. Wahler, League President and Mayor of Piscataway, at 732-562-7627
Michael F. Cerra, Director, Government Affairs at 609-695-3481 x120 or 609-532-2494.
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