New Jersey Land Use Update

Scales and Lamp USSCThere were no reported land use or zoning decisions out of the New Jersey appeals courts this week. One unreported case did hinge on a reading of the Municipal Land Use Law. In the facts leading up to CJS Investments, Inc. v. Mayor and Council of the Twp. of Robbinsville, the Council had failed to either accept or reject an engineer’s official report about the plaintiff developer’s completed roadway improvements within a 45-day period, as required by N.J.S.A. 40:55D-53e(1). An Appellate Division panel affirmed the Law Division’s ruling, which had granted the developer’s requests to be released from its performance guarantees on the work at issue and to have the Township pay its legal fees. Among other things, the panel found that the Council’s inaction did not constitute a rejection of the engineer’s report. As always, the temporary New Jersey Courts link is alive for now, but the original opinion will be archived at the Rutgers Law Library next week.

Matisse at the Met


Acanthus. Henri Matisse (1911-13).

The show is closing soon. If you’re going to be around New York City, you should check it out before it does. If the exhibit has an overarching theme, it’s a comparison between the slight variations in perspective, style, and palette that distinguish Matisse’s studies of particular scenes. For example, two beach scenes painted at Saint-Tropez — one divisionist, one not. Or two landscapes depicting the same spot in Morocco, each shown in different light. If you go, just don’t try to snap any pictures or walk back through the exhibit after reaching the end. The Met’s art police will be sure to lay down the law. . . .

Posted in Art

Tunnel Boring For East Side Access

The Atlantic has some incredible photos of the East Side Access (ESA) project. When you see too many good ideas mired in legalities and politics, it’s easy to forget what humankind is capable of achieving; and then you see images like these, which are really quite inspiring. Because sometimes meaningful things actually do get done. (Just not in New Jersey.)

If the ultimate cost of service can be kept reasonable, then the service upgrades supported by this project will pay dividends through transit-oriented development around Long Island Railroad stations in Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk. There’s also a serious proposal that was discussed last year to add direct Metro-North service via the ESA project to the affordable housing markets of Parkchester and Co-Op City in the Bronx. What’s happening today under the East River will likely support the next generation of neighborhoods in metro New York.

Law School Blues, Cont’d.

John Farmer (former New Jersey A.G., 9/11 Commission, Rutgers Law) has an op-ed in the NYT. He’s pushing for a more formal apprenticeship structure to bridge the gap between study and practice. I like the idea. It would be great to have an option, short of joining a firm, that provided a chance to get some relevant, hands-on experience under the guidance of senior lawyers. Traditional clerkships may serve a part of that purpose for prospective litigators or crim lawyers, but where are the corollary opportunities for new attorneys focused on transactional, counseling, and drafting work?

One incredible stat from Dean Farmer’s piece: 99% of defendants in New Jersey landlord-tenant cases don’t have counsel. That’s amazing.

Posted in Law

New Jersey Land Use Update

There were no reported decisions on land use or zoning in the past two weeks, but there was one reported decision on eminent domain last week: In Borough of Merchantville v. Malik & Son LLC, et al., an Appellate Division panel affirmed a trial court’s holding that a borough was not required to negotiate with a lien holder — even though that party had foreclosed on the property at issue — before proceeding to an action against the owner of record, as described in N.J.S.A. 20:3-6. In an opinion written by Presiding Judge Francine I. Axelrad, the panel followed a rule set down in a 1997 case, City of Atlantic City v. Cynwyd Investments, which had held that the title owner was the proper negotiating partner for a public authority in a condemnation; the panel was unpersuaded by attempts to distinguish the earlier holding (which was based, among other things, on the practicality of not requiring the government to enter negotiations with every potentially interested party) from the case on appeal. On a separate point, the court held that the the owner of record in this case, who had rejected the Borough’s one-time offer, had failed to subsequently provide evidence that would counter the fairness of the Borough’s underlying appraisal. Among other things, the court reiterated a rule that previous purchase offers for much higher amounts (but which never manifest as sales) will not negate the findings of a formal appraisal.

Among unpublished opinions, one recent case addressed an inverse condemnation claim flowing (in part) from the actions of a planning board. In Woodruff v. U. S. Home Corp., et al., an Appellate Division panel affirmed a trial court’s granting of summary judgment to the Township of Upper Deerfield, in Cumberland County, based on the fact that the challenge to the planning board’s approval of a subdivision was time-barred by Rule 4:69-6(a), and did not meet any of the established criteria for extending the 45-day period of time, under Rule 4:69-6(c), “in the interest of justice.” The court also affirmed the trial court’s decision that storm water runoff from the subdivision’s board-approved storm water management system did not constitute a compensable inverse condemnation. Following the federal criteria for takings claims, the A.D. based its affirmation on the lack of any permanent, physical occupation of the property, and the minimal impact of intermittent water in an unused ravine on the claimants’ use of their property. As always, the temporary New Jersey Courts links are alive for now, but the opinions will be archived at the Rutgers Law Library next week.

The Bronx is Next?

South Bronx

All of the solid building stocks in Brooklyn were discovered at least a decade ago — and since then, people have taken to upgrading parcels in the Victorian slums of that borough, like Bushwick. Upper Manhattan is well on its way, too, with new investors moving into the multifamily buildings of Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood. (To be fair, Bloomberg does note that some of the recent uptown sales activity flows from multiple sales by institutional investors who are bailing out of big, pre-2008 bets that they had made on those neighborhoods.) Queens is really interesting, culturally, but it has a limited number of existing, traditionally urban neighborhoods. So where’s the love for some of New York City’s best apartment architecture, rarest Victorian mansions, most unusual topographies, and densest transit infrastructure, in the urban core of the Bronx? And does recent activity in the Arthur Avenue section offer a preview of what may be coming? (I really hope not.)

(Here, an Art Deco residential building and a Gothic-style stone church stand beside one another on the edge of a steep hill, where East Tremont Avenue drops to meet Valentine Avenue in the Tremont section of New York City. Note the intricacy of the relationship between the buildings and their respective contexts: The architects of the apartment house clearly designed their building for this parcel, following the curve of East 176th Street for the contour of their façade, and taking advantage of the adjacent church tower’s five-foot setback to create double-exposed corner windows. Meanwhile, the church, though suffering a location without southern exposures, is located on a parcel opposite a park, whose perpetual open space has maximized the amount of sunlight that illuminates the large, stained-glass windows.)

The Bureaucracy of Starting a Business

Matt Yglesias has an article on Slate about all that was involved in becoming a one-unit landlord in Washington, D.C. He’s not kidding. I’ve been doing research since last summer for a consulting firm that helps businesses to locate their licensing and regulatory requirements, and it really is incredible to see the layers of bureaucracy that exist in certain jurisdictions.

Posted in Law