New Jersey's Site Remediation Reform Act

     The following entry was written by Burton J. Jaffe, Esq., a real estate attorney resident in Fox Rothschild's Princeton office.  Burt can be contacted at (609) 895-6630 or at bjaffe@foxrothschild.com

 

     On November 3, 2009 the Site Remediation Reform Act, NJSA 58:10C-1 et seq. (the “Act”) becomes effective. The Act materially changes the role of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) with respect to the remediation of contaminated property in New Jersey.

     The Act changes the role of NJDEP from direct supervision of the remediation of contaminated sites to a compliance, enforcement and monitoring role of independent professionals conducting such work. The professionals must be licensed by the Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board which is established in NJDEP. The Board’s mandate is to establish licensing requirements for site remediation professionals and to oversee the licensing and performance of site remediation professionals.

     Additionally, the Act requires the NJDEP to inspect all documents and information submitted by a licensed site remediation professional, authorizes NJDEP to review the performance of a clean up under a broad range of circumstances (NJDEP can audit a clean up for up to three years after its conclusion) and mandates that NJDEP undertake direct oversight of contaminated sites under certain conditions and authorizes, but does not require, NJDEP to undertake direct oversight under certain other conditions.

     The purpose of the Act is to improve the speed of site clean-ups and the Act is carefully designed to accomplish this purpose without lessening the stringent remediation requirements already in place in New Jersey.

Camden County Property Taxes Highest in the State, 11th in the Nation

     One New Jersey county is on the cusp of cracking a Top 10 List that probably leaves little to be desired. 

     As reported in an article by Jim Walsh published in today's edition of the Courier-Post, (follow link here for online article) a new study published by the Washington D.C. based Tax Foundation has concluded that property taxes in Camden County are the highest in New Jersey and 11th highest in the nation (out of 790 "high population" counties) when measured as a percentage of a home's value.  The national median is nearly 1 percent (0.96%) - Camden County's was estimated at 2.33%. Following close behind were Gloucester County (31st), Salem County (32nd) and Burlington County (46th). 

     Not to be outdone, the North Jersey counties fared even better (or worse...) according to the Foundation's ranking of median property tax paid per owner-occupied home in 2008.  New Jersey had six of the top 10 counties (from 1 to 10, Westchester County, NY ($8,890); Nassau County, NY ($8,628); Hunterdon County, NJ ($8,492); Bergen County, NJ ($8,446); Rockland County, NY ($8,430); Essex County, NJ ($7,924); Somerset County, NJ ($7,743); Morris County, NJ ($7,557); Passaic County, NJ ($7,370); and Putnam County, NY ($7,324). The national median is $1,897.

     According to its website,  Tax Foundation "is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937."  Click here to review a copy of the Foundation's press release on the property tax census survey. 

     The question remains - what can be done to fix the problem?  That remains to be seen, but suffice it to say that property taxes are sure to be a hot button issue in the upcoming Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey.  From a practical perspective, the deadline to file an appeal challenging a property's assessment for tax purposes is April 1st annually (unless extended in which case the taxpayer would receive written notice).  It is important to note, however, that pursuant to state statute the property taxes for the 2010 tax year are determined, in part, based upon the fair market value of your property as of October 1, 2009

     October 1, 2009 is a week away.  One can only hope that next week will not mark the start of a top 10 ranking for Camden County, or a blue ribbon for the six North Jersey contenders.