On June 22, 2006, the State Assembly voted on and overwhelmingly passed a revised version of the eminent domain reform bill (No. A3257), which Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli introduced on June 8, 2006. Indeed, Assembly bill A3257 was amended in a number of significant ways prior to being approved by the full Assembly. A sampling of these amendments follows below.
- Condemnation in designated redevelopment areas prohibited if the property to be acquired therein is also located within an agricultural development area.
• Replacement of the substantial evidence test with a requirement that the municipality show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the delineated area fulfills the criteria set forth in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law at N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5.
- Expansion of the statute of limitations to challenge redevelopment area designations from 45 to 60 days.
- Limitation on the duration of a redevelopment area designation to 10 years following the final adoption of an ordinance making such determination or 10 years following the final adoption of the redevelopment plan, whichever occurs later. This amendment to A3257 includes a mechanism for extending the life of a redevelopment area designation by an additional five years (for a total of 15 years).
- Replacement of the originally proposed provision in Assembly bill A3257 that entitled persons displaced by redevelopment to all rights and benefits provided under the Uniform Transportation Replacement Housing and Relocation Act, N.J.S.A. 27:7-72, et. seq., with detailed amendments to the Relocation Assistance Act, N.J.S.A. 20:4-1, et. seq., providing for certain increases in the maximum allowance for moving and related expenses and the required replacement housing payments, and requiring annual adjustments for these (and other) payments based upon the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.
- Requirement that redevelopers reimburse the Department of Community Affairs for the cost of providing rental assistance to displaced tenants who are eligible for the rental assistance program for low income individuals or households established pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52:27D-287.1, et. seq., “for a period not to exceed four years from the commencement of occupancy of the new unit[.]”
- Establishment of a new mandatory provision in redevelopment agreements requiring redevelopers to provide written notice to any property owner who receives a written offer from the municipality or designated redevelopment entity pursuant to the good faith negotiations requirements under the Eminent Domain Act of 1971, N.J.S.A. 20:3-1, et. seq., detailing “the total compensation provided for in each contract of sale between the redeveloper and any property owner in the redevelopment area.”
- Requirement that municipalities disclose to the Department of Community Affairs “an accounting of the cost of all municipal investments made in the redevelopment area subsequent to the final adoption of an ordinance determining the area as in need of redevelopment[.]” The term “municipal investments” includes such items as tax abatements, density bonuses and municipal infrastructure. “In addition” the amendments to A3257 provide that “the municipality shall disclose any other public infrastructure to be provided in the redevelopment of the area using public funds.”
- Grant to prospective condemnees, by amending section 6 of the Eminent Domain Act of 1971 (codified at N.J.S.A. 20:3-6), of a right to “provide information, data or otherwise raise issues of concern to the owner relating to the valuation of the property and damages to the remainder arising from the proposed acquisition.” The amendments to N.J.S.A. 20:3-6 through the revised version of Assembly bill A3257 also extend the period of time within which the prospective condemnee has to respond to a written offer from 14 days (after mailing) to 45 days (after receipt), which may be further extended by 25 days (for a total of 70 days). The aforesaid amendments further provide that, during this post-offer period, a prospective condemnee may seek clarification of, additional information on, and/or otherwise discuss, the offer with a representative of the condemning authority, and may submit a counter-appraisal for review and consideration. Should negotiations fail or the prospective condemnee not respond, “the condemnor may then send . . . a letter setting forth an intent to commence condemnation proceedings in the Superior Court.”
- Requirement that a municipality or designated redevelopment entity pay to owners of businesses displaced through the use of eminent domain an additional payment “for the value of goodwill[,]” which means “the benefits that accrue to a business as a result of its location, reputation for dependability, skill or quality, and any other circumstances resulting in probable retention of old or acquisition of new patronage.”
- Limitation on the acceptance by municipalities or designated redevelopment entities of political contributions from redevelopers.
The debate over eminent domain reform now heads to the State Senate where a companion bill (No. S2088) was introduced on June 26, 2006, and referred to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee for consideration.