Real Property & Environmental Law Alert Blog

Gibbons Real Property Department Attorneys Represent Pharmaceutical Company in Cambridge Lease

Gibbons Real Property Department Attorneys Represent Pharmaceutical Company in Cambridge Lease

Gibbons attorneys Russell B. Bershad and Nicole E. Taplin, Directors in the Real Property Department, are representing Bayer Healthcare LLC in a long-term, large scale lease for laboratory and office space in a new building under construction by MIT in Kendall Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe featured a story on the lease, which can be found here.

New York Appeals Court Decision Highlights the Risks of Not Filing Decisions and Not Holding Duly Noticed Public Hearings

New York Appeals Court Decision Highlights the Risks of Not Filing Decisions and Not Holding Duly Noticed Public Hearings

A recent decision by New York’s Appellate Division, Second Department, serves as a reminder of the importance of promptly filing administrative determinations, holding required duly noticed public hearings, and the consequences of failing to do so. In Corrales v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of Dobbs Ferry, Livingston Development Group in November 2012 submitted an application for the development of twelve condominiums. The Building Department forwarded the application to the Planning Board, which conducted a public hearing after which it recommended approval subject to certain conditions. The Village Board of Trustees, which retained site plan approval authority, granted site plan approval conditioned on, among other things, the applicant obtaining approval from the Architectural and Historic Review Board (the “AHRB”). Thereafter, the applicant applied to the AHRB, which denied its application. The applicant appealed the denial to the Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”). While that appeal was pending, neighbors – one of whom did not receive notice of the Planning Board’s earlier public hearing – asserted that the proposed condominium use was not permitted in the zoning district. The neighbors’ attorney also raised this issue at a subsequent meeting of the AHRB, during which the assistant building inspector gave...

Governor Murphy Signs Stormwater Utilities Bill Into Law

Governor Murphy Signs Stormwater Utilities Bill Into Law

On March 18, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation authorizing municipalities (and other public entities) to establish utilities for the creation and management of stormwater infrastructure. The legislation, S1073, also known as the Clean Stormwater and Flood Reduction Act (the “Act”), provides that a governing body of a county or municipality may create a stormwater utility “for the purposes of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining, and operating stormwater management systems.” The Act also allows municipalities and counties that have established sewerage authorities to request that the authority create a stormwater utility, so that the functions of the utility would be managed by the existing authority rather than the municipality(ies) or county directly. Perhaps most importantly, the Act authorizes stormwater utilities to “charge and collect reasonable fees and other charges” to recoup the costs incurred by the utility in performing stormwater management in the subject locality. Under the Act, charges may be assessed against the owner or occupant, or both, of any real property from which stormwater enters a stormwater management system. The Act also includes provisions allowing municipalities, etc. that establish stormwater utilities to issue bonds to fund stormwater management systems, and imposes reporting requirements on utilities and rulemaking...

NJ Appellate Division Case Highlights Importance of Thorough Due Diligence Regarding Properties Containing “Abandoned” Railroad Lines

NJ Appellate Division Case Highlights Importance of Thorough Due Diligence Regarding Properties Containing “Abandoned” Railroad Lines

The conveyance of property containing embankments or former railroad facilities may invoke complicated title issues that could lead to significant costs and delays for real estate purchasers seeking to develop the property if such issues are not adequately addressed prior to the acquisition. On January 23, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an unpublished decision in 212 Marin Boulevard, LLC, et al. v. Chicago Title Insurance Company and Consolidated Rail Corporation, concerning a party’s alleged misrepresentation about whether the conveyed embankment property was subject to the Surface Transportation Board’s (“STB”) abandonment authority. The STB is the federal agency established to oversee rate and service disputes for railways, as well as railway restructuring transactions, including abandonment of rail lines. Presumptively, any abandonment of rail lines by an entity regulated by the STB requires STB approval, unless excepted under federal statute. The seller, Consolidated Rail Corporation (“Conrail”), represented to Chicago Title Insurance Company (“Chicago Title”) that STB abandonment was not required, and Chicago Title, in apparent reliance on this statement, issued policies for the conveyed parcels when the purchaser closed on the property. Even so, the Appellate Division rejected Chicago Title’s third party complaint against Conrail for negligent misrepresentation. The decision...

NJDEP Proposes to Reclassify 749 Miles of Waterways to Highly Protected Antidegradation Status in First Such Move Since 2008

NJDEP Proposes to Reclassify 749 Miles of Waterways to Highly Protected Antidegradation Status in First Such Move Since 2008

For the first time since 2008, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has proposed to amend its surface water quality standards to prohibit degradation of water quality in additional rivers and streams that did not previously enjoy such protection. The current proposal, which was released on March 4, would lift hundreds of miles of waterways to a more protected status as Category One waters. NJDEP’s water quality standards, found at N.J.A.C. 7:9B, have several components. The standards designate uses for all waters of the State, and prescribe water quality criteria (e.g., minimum levels of dissolved oxygen, and maximum levels of suspended solids and various toxics) necessary to allow for those uses. In addition, the standards establish three tiers of “antidegradation” designations. The highest tier consists of “outstanding natural resource waters,” so designated because of their unique ecological significance or because they are within the Pinelands, must be maintained in their natural state. Category One waters, occupying the second tier, are protected from any measurable change in their existing water quality. Water quality in Category Two waters, the third tier, may be lowered, but only with social and/or economic justification for the change. NJDEP’s proposal, which was first presented...

The Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig Accident Continues to Cause Ripples: Texas Supreme Court Holds That Defense Costs are Not Liabilities Under Insurance Policy

The Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig Accident Continues to Cause Ripples: Texas Supreme Court Holds That Defense Costs are Not Liabilities Under Insurance Policy

The Supreme Court of Texas recently issued a decision in which the community of insured parties and insurer parties alike will be interested. The case, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, et al. v. Houston Casualty Company, et al., stems from the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling-rig accident that has been called, “the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history.” The decision distinguishes between an insured’s “liability” and “expenses” under certain policy language to the consequent of $112 million. The case involved the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Anadarko E&P Company, L.P. (collectively, “Anadarko”) and a group of insurance underwriters led by the Houston Casualty Company (the “Underwriters”). Anadarko was a 25% minority interest holder in the Macondo Well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Anadarko reached a settlement agreement with BP under which Anadarko agreed to provide its 25% interest and to pay $4 billion to BP in exchange for a release and indemnity against all other liabilities arising out of the accident. Anadarko’s legal fees and defense expenses were not included in the settlement agreement, and Anadarko sought these fees and expenses from the Underwriters pursuant to its “energy package” insurance policy. The policy included...

Settlors Beware: A Recent NJ District Court Decision Has the Potential to Have Far Reaching Impacts on Parties Entering into Settlements Under CERCLA

Settlors Beware: A Recent NJ District Court Decision Has the Potential to Have Far Reaching Impacts on Parties Entering into Settlements Under CERCLA

A recent decision from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey may throw a new wrinkle into the already complex settlement process under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Specifically, the decision addresses the question of what claims are included in the “matters addressed” in a settlement and entitled to contribution protection. On July 23, 2018, in N.J. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. v. Am. Thermoplastics Corp, et al., Judge William H. Walls granted summary judgment in favor of the third-party defendants Carter Day Industries, Inc. (CDI), Combe Fill Corporation (CFC), and Combustion Equipment Associates, Inc. (“CEA”) (collectively, “Carter Day Parties”). Judge Walls held that the Carter Day Parties are entitled to contribution protection from claims for CERCLA costs incurred by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) based on a settlement agreement between the Carter Day Parties and the State of New Jersey, notwithstanding that USEPA was not a party to the settlement. In following, the five-count first amended complaint of the third-party plaintiffs’ Compaction Systems Corporation of Connecticut, Inc. and Compaction Systems Corporation of New Jersey (together, “Compaction”) was dismissed with prejudice. The five counts of the complaint were: i) cost recovery...

Split Ninth Circuit Grants Government’s Interlocutory Appeal in Youths’ Climate Change Suit

Split Ninth Circuit Grants Government’s Interlocutory Appeal in Youths’ Climate Change Suit

In 2015, 21 youth plaintiffs, ranging in age from eight to 19 at the time of filing, brought a constitutional climate-change lawsuit against the United States alleging that the United States and various executive branch agencies discriminate against younger generations with policies that contribute to and exacerbate climate change in violation of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. The plaintiffs seek an order enjoining current governmental policies and adopting a plan to curb excessive carbon dioxide emissions. The government unsuccessfully sought to have the case dismissed, and when that failed, sought mandamus from the Ninth Circuit directing the district court to dismiss the suit. Recently, after a trip up to the United States Supreme Court and back down to the Oregon District Court, the Ninth Circuit ultimately agreed by a 2-1 majority to allow the defendants’ mandamus petition to proceed. The majority noted that interlocutory appeals under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) are generally only authorized when a district court order “involves a controlling question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion” and found “an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” The plaintiffs allege that...

Recap: IRS Convenes Public Hearing on Proposed Regulations for Opportunity Zones

Recap: IRS Convenes Public Hearing on Proposed Regulations for Opportunity Zones

Jason J. Redd, a Director in the Gibbons Government & Regulatory Affairs Department attended an overflowing public hearing on February 14 convened by the Internal Revenue Service for the purpose of obtaining input from stakeholders concerning the initial proposed regulations for Opportunity Zones (OZ) issued in October. The IRS is reviewing comments on the first round of proposed rules and is expected to issue the next round of proposed regulations in March, with the potential for final regulations to be issued in late spring. Witnesses at the packed hearing included state cabinet officials, as well as representatives from state economic development groups, small businesses, community reinvestment coalitions, investment funds, and technology and planning organizations, among others. Testimony focused on ensuring that program regulations maximize investment and economic growth by generating new development, capital, and jobs in the distressed communities where OZs are located. There was also a clear call, by all in attendance, for clarity and flexibility in the next round of rules. Suggestions included: (i) modifying the rules to provide more flexibility to investors when exiting Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) investments, which is currently limited to a sale of the QOF investment itself; (ii) minimizing sourcing and location rules...

NJ Appellate Division Announces Evidentiary Standards for Condemnations “Necessary” for a Redevelopment Project

NJ Appellate Division Announces Evidentiary Standards for Condemnations “Necessary” for a Redevelopment Project

At what point is a piece of property “necessary” for a redevelopment project? On January 7, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division published a decision in Borough of Glassboro v. Jack Grossman, Matthew Roche, and Dan Desilvio, — N.J. Super. — (App. Div. 2019) (slip op. at 2) that – for the first time – clarifies the phrase “necessary for the redevelopment project” as stated in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) at N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-8(c). The three-judge panel addressed the question of whether a showing of necessity is required by a condemning authority beyond the designation of the area as one in need of redevelopment, and, what showing it must make in order to condemn a parcel of land located with a redevelopment area. Existing case law required the taking to be “reasonably necessary,” but had never clarified what standards should be used to evaluate how necessary a given property might be to a given redevelopment project. This decision now requires that when a landowner within a redevelopment area contests the necessity of a condemnation, the condemning authority must articulate a definitive need to acquire the parcel for an identified redevelopment project. In Grossman, the defendants owned or were...