New Jersey Land Use Update

There were no published New Jersey decisions on land use this week. In the unpublished world, an Appellate Division panel affirmed the trial court’s holding in Bisceglie v. Oz, et al. in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff, a next-door neighbor, sued the Ozes, whose newly-planted cedar trees had obstructed his view of the New York City skyline. The plaintiff claimed that the trees constituted an illegal fence under a borough ordinance. The original case was not decided on its merits, but on a finding that the plaintiff had not exhausted his remedies with the Cliffside Park Z.B.A. The A.D. affirmed, noting that the plaintiff had sought more than just an interpretation of law, and that a number of fact-specific questions could have been developed through the zoning board process. The original opinion is available (for now) from the New Jersey Courts website, and will be archived at Rutgers next week.

New Jersey Land Use Update

Scales and Lamp USSCJust a couple of unpublished opinions from the Appellate Division this week: In Rosenblum v. Z.B.A. of the Borough of Closter, et al., the court reversed a Law Division ruling that had affirmed the zoning board’s granting of a D variance for commercial uses, finding that the requisite criteria had not been met. The winning appeal was argued pro se by the plaintiff — an aggrieved neighbor. Meanwhile, in Gourley v. Monroe Twp., the court affirmed a Chancery decision to deny plaintiffs’ claims, including a reverse condemnation claim that they had brought against the township for damage from storm water runoff that may have been exacerbated by adjacent, permitted land development. The temporary New Jersey Courts links are alive for now, but the opinions will be archived at the Rutgers Law Library next week.

Ada Louise Huxtable on New York City

There were some priceless quotes from Ada Louise Huxtable about city planning and architecture in this retrospective piece on her career as America’s first newspaper architecture critic. One of my favorites:

“For those in positions of power, architecture has no redeeming value; it is a frill to be eliminated as a virtuous, cost-cutting, vote-getting measure; it can be abandoned without regret. It took today’s mean mentality to see cathedrals and courthouses as ‘waste space.’”

Unfortunately, it’s a mean mentality that’s been coming since the end of World War II, and one that continues. Another good one:

“The peculiarity of New York is that while the avenues are its show, the side streets are its soul.”

Absolutely. Unfortunately, in the oversold city of today, those building blocks are being replaced by show, now, too. Finally, there was this from the late Senator Moynihan, on Ms. Huxtable:

“You must love a country very much to be as little satisfied with it as she.”

Huxtable died this week at the age of 91.

Wills For Heroes in Newark

A Wills for Heroes event will be held this Saturday in Newark’s Ironbound. Volunteer lawyers will help local firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and other first responders to prepare the legal documents that people in dangerous professions can’t go without. Basic services will be provided free of charge. If you think you might like to participate in this event, send me an e-mail and I’ll put you in touch with the organizers who are signing up volunteers.

Transfer Taxes and the Fiscal Non-Cliff

Deborah Jacobs, the house estate-planning expert at Forbes, has a nice roundup of the rules that Congress set to begin in 2013.

When all was said and done, not much changed.

  • The Lifetime Exemption has been now codified at $5 million, plus inflation. This agreement preserved the non-permanent status quo that had existed on the lifetime exemption, and represented a major concession by the Dems, who had sought to lower the transfer tax threshold by about 30%. The outcome will keep the tax bar high enough to avoid imposing liabilities on the vast majority of Americans’ estates — including most large estates.
  • The Unlimited Marital Deduction has been made permanent. So, essentially, a married couple’s lifetime exemption will remain twice that of an individual. Unsurprisingly, we heard nothing about expanding this benefit to include same-sex spouses.
  • Exemption Portability remains. So, a portion of the personal lifetime exemption that is not used at the end of one’s life may be passed along to one’s spouse. Again, nothing new for same-sex spouses.
  • The Top Rate has gone up narrowly, from 35% to 40%.
  • The Annual Exclusion on gifts has risen to $14,000, per recipient.

(Please note that this is not legal advice: Speak with a licensed and qualified attorney in your own jurisdiction about your own unique circumstances before making any important legal decisions.)