The real estate industry has seen a lot of changes over the past several years, and now, for those in the state of New Jersey, there is one more. In the matter of Fair Share Housing Center Inc. v. N.J. State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Supreme Court took what at first blush might have been thought an unusual decision yesterday, declaring that the New Jersey League of Municipalities is a “public agency” possessing “government records” and therefore is subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act. The League is a nonprofit, unincorporated association representing all of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities, which includes over 13,000 municipal officials and over 560 mayors.
The League is the lobbying arm of New Jersey’s municipalities and is supported in large part from public funding in the form of membership dues. Additionally, its employees participate in the Public Employees’ Retirement System, after The League was declared a public agency for that purpose by a 1955 Attorney General Opinion. Given that the lobbying done by The League on behalf of municipalities throughout the state of New Jersey, which until now the documentation for was private, one would expect a treasure-trove of information to become available to those seeking to challenge the lobbying and other efforts of The League in the future.
In this instance, Fair Share Housing was seeking information regarding the League’s position opposing affordable housing regulations proposed by the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). Therefore, all COAH regulations adopted in the past 10 years have been declared unconstitutional. The latest regulations are on appeal before the New Jersey Supreme Court challenging the latest determination of unconstitutionality. The League has largely been supportive of these unconstitutional regulations and has opposed reasonable attempts at legislation and regulations enforcing a municipality’s obligations to zone for reasonable opportunity for housing for all of the residents of New Jersey.
Here in my firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office, I expect this decision to be a source of conversation among our attorneys. If you have questions about how this decision could impact you and your business, feel free to contact me to discuss this matter in more detail.