S1481 - The Rice Bill Unveiled

Recently, the New Jersey Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee reported favorably on Senate Bill No. 1451 (S1451) with Committee amendments. The so-called Rice Bill, named after the State Senator primarily responsible for seeking reform, proposes to amend significantly the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law. The Eminent Domain Act of 1971 and the Relocation Assistance Act of 1971 would also be amended. As a basis for reform, the legislation itself states that the Legislature received input from a number of interested citizens and interest groups over an extended period of time. 

S1451 proposes to create two tracks for municipal designation of redevelopment areas: the first as a non-condemnation redevelopment area and the second as a condemnation redevelopment area. For the latter, enhanced requirements will be built into the statute consistent with two seminal cases decided within the last few years, Harrison Redev. Agency v. DeRose, 398 N.J. Super. 361 (App. Div. 2008) and Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007). Under this legislation, a municipality will be required to give notice to a property owner informing that their property is at risk of being forcibly taken for redevelopment purposes, giving them a time frame within which they can contest the redevelopment designation. Further, blight determinations must be recorded at the County Recording Office. Finally, the redevelopment designation will lapse after a period of time unless redevelopment work is ongoing.

In recognition of Gallenthin, the criteria for blight under the statute is proposed to be modified and specific factors must be found by the municipal governing body to exist in order for a blight declaration to withstand scrutiny. Moreover, no more than 20% of the land mass designated for private ownership in a redevelopment area may be comprised of non-blighted land. 

Further, changes will be made to condemnation procedures and relocation assistance. Non-blighted property cannot be condemned without a certification that all means have been exhausted to acquire the property short of condemnation. The valuation standard is modified to require that properties be valued at no less than replacement cost of the property. Also, any displaced resident and small business operator will be given a statutory right of first refusal to purchase or lease property in the redevelopment area post-development. For relocation assistance, which has not been increased since 1971, there will be a phased increase with significant bumps over the next several years.

Finally, procedural safeguards are built into S1451 that include the right to contest various governmental actions in court. Further, the Superior Court is given specific authority to suspend redevelopment activities in the event a notice under the LRHL was defective. Importantly, existing redevelopment activities are proposed to be grandfathered to the extent that they have been undertaken and there will be a four-month period of repose after S1451 is made law. 

If there are further questions about S1451, please feel free to contact Jeffrey Hall at 609-895-6755 or jhall@foxrothschild.com.

The Time of the Application Rule - The New Standard for Land Development Applications

On May 5, 2010, Governor Christie signed legislation that represents a shift in the long-standing right of a municipality to amend or alter its land development regulations after an applicant has filed a land development application. The legislation, S-82, modifies the development application process under the Municipal Land Use Law to afford significant benefits to developers. 

S-82, commonly referred to as the “time of application” or “time of decision” legislation, provides that a land development application will be governed by the municipal development regulations in effect at the time that the application is submitted, and any provisions of any ordinance adopted subsequent to the submission date are not applicable to the application filed prior. However, the new legislation does not extend to ordinances that are adopted relative to health and public safety, and thus an applicant will continue to be subject to the reach of such ordinances to the extent applicable. The legislation affects development applications submitted on or after May 5, 2011, which gives municipalities time to update their Master Plans and zoning ordinances in anticipation of the new procedures.  

 

Although the legislation does not guarantee in any way that an application will be granted, it clarifies the development regulations by which the application will be examined.   As Governor Christie noted, “[t]his legislation makes common sense changes to improve the application process and move New Jersey in the right direction of providing a friendlier environment for job creation, while keeping safeguards for public health and safety in place." 

 

A copy of the legislation can be viewed by clicking on the following link.  

Financial Incentives for Solar Energy - Section 1603 In a Nutshell

By now, much has been written about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.  In fact, this legislation has spawned such abbreviations and acronyms such as:  ARRA, the Recovery Act, or quite simply, the "Stimulus".  Whichever your preference, the purposes of this legislation included the preservation and creation of jobs, the promotion of economic recovery in the near term, and the investment in infrastructure that will provide long-term benefits. 

Of the Recovery Act's initiatives, most people are familiar with the $8,000 homebuyer credit that just expired on April 30, 2010 or a deduction for sales taxes on qualifying new car purchases.  For the real estate development community or proponents of renewable energy, one of the Recovery Act's mandates has generated (no pun intended) little press but packs a big punch. 

Section 1603 of the Recovery Act appropriated grant monies to reimburse qualified applicants for up to 30% of the construction costs for specified renewable energy property.  Provided that the property is placed into service by the termination date provided in the Recovery Act, the Treasury Department will pay the credit amount to applicant within 60 days of the date the application is deemed complete.  Applicants can also assign their rights to the payment to a bank or financial institution. 

But, the window is rapidly closing on this extraordinary financial opportunity.  The application filing deadline expires on October 1, 2011.  However, construction on a project must commence in 2010 in order to qualify for the Section 1603 payment, even though the application may not be submitted. 

FILING REQUIREMENTS FOR 2010 TAX APPEALS

N.J.S.A. 54:3-21 is the jurisdictional statute for tax appeals. It was recently amended by L. 2009, c.251, effective January 16, 2010. This amendment is noteworthy as it raises the floor for filing direct real property assessment challenges in the Tax Court. Previously, a complaint could not be filed in the Tax Court and the County Board of Taxation by passed if the assessed value exceeded $750,000.   As of January 16, 2010, the assessed value for a property must exceed $1 million to trigger the court’s original jurisdiction.    R. 8:3-5 of New Jersey’s Rules of Court were changed as of February 9th to conform.

Taxpayers are not remediless if the property’s assessment is $1 million or less. In that case, a petition, not a complaint, can be filed with the County Board of Taxation of the county in which the property is located. The procedural requirements for County Boards differ from board to board as well as with the procedural requirements of the Tax Court. However, in either forum, a taxpayer must comply with several challenges including: (1) the burden of proof on value, (2) Chapter 91, and (3) Chapter 123. Failure to comply with any of these will result in dismissal of the taxpayer’s petition or complaint, as the case may be.

 

The specifics of N.J.S.A. 54:3-21 (the “Statute”) remain the same:

 

  • A petition or a complaint must be filed on or before April 1st of the year of assessment or, on or before May 1st, if the taxing district undertook a municipal-wide revaluation or a municipal-wide reassessment.
  • The taxing district (the assessor) is required to bulk mail to each property owner a notification of the assessment and file a certification with the County Board of Taxation advising of the date the bulk mailing was completed.
  • Appeals are governed by the State Uniform Tax Procedure Law. An appeal to the Tax Court establishes jurisdiction over the entire matter with the court.
  • A cross-petition of appeal or a counterclaim can be filed within 20 days from the date of service of a petition or a complaint by the other party.

 

 

 

 

It is well established that this Statute is jurisdictional and therefore filing deadlines cannot be waived. An untimely filing will result in a dismissal of an appeal no matter how meritorious. Finally, the appeal process established by this Statute does not apply to appeals of an assessment or an exemption based on a financial agreement controlled by the Long Term Tax Exemption Law.

 

If you have any further questions, please feel free to consult Jeffrey M. Hall at (609) 895-6755 or jhall@foxrothschild.com.

New Jersey Legislature Increases Minimum Threshold for Filing a Property Tax Appeal Directly With the New Jersey Tax Court

     As noted on the official website for the New Jersey Tax Court, due to recently enacted legislation, any local property tax appeals that are not added or omitted assessments may be filed directly with the Tax Court only if the original assessment exceeds $1,000,000. 

     The Assembly Committee that reviewed the legislation and recommended its adoption noted that "[i]ncreasing the assessed value requirement will decrease the overburdened Tax Court's caseload and allow these cases to be heard by county boards of taxation, which are better equipped to handle a large volume of tax appeals."  For what it is worth, the prior $750,000 threshold had not been increased since it was first established in 1979. 

     The legislation increases the threshold for making a direct filing from $750,000 to $1,000,000.  Therefore, any taxpayer whose assessment is below the minimum threshold may still challenge its tax assessment by filing a Petition of Appeal with the County Board of Taxation in the county where the property is located.  However, those taxpayers whose assessments exceed $1,000,000 may either file a Petition at the County Board level or file a direct appeal with the Tax Court.  There are advantages and disadvantages with both approaches.

 

     Notices of the tax assessments are typically mailed on or around February 1st.  

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.