New Jersey case law has consistently held that new or modified development ordinance provisions apply to pending land use applications, even if the proposed zoning was specifically introduced to thwart a pending application. This has historically been known as the “time of decision” rule. On May 5, 2011, the time of decision rule will run out of time.
Recognizing the fundamental chilling impact on developers who commit substantial time and money to a project only to have the rules changed by a municipality after the game has already started, the Legislature amended the Municipal Land Use Law to provide that the development regulations in effect on the date of submission of an application govern the review and decision with respect to that application. This legislation was enacted on May 5, 2010, to become effective one year later in order to give municipalities time to revise and update their ordinances.
Accordingly, for those development applications submitted on or subsequent to May 5, 2011, the time of decision rule will no longer apply. Although municipalities will no longer be able to rezone reactively as a substitute for thorough and comprehensive planning or in reaction to public opposition to the application, the question now will be: Is an application that is deemed “incomplete” sufficiently “submitted” to be protected against changes to a municipality’s development ordinance?