Real Property & Environmental Law Alert Blog

NJABC Relaxes Additional Regulations in Response to COVID-19 Crisis

NJABC Relaxes Additional Regulations in Response to COVID-19 Crisis

On April 7, 2020, we published a blog explaining the guidance and forms of relief recently provided by the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“Division”) to liquor license holders throughout the state. The issued guidance and relief pertain to operations of alcoholic beverage licensees and permittees during the state of emergency declared to address the COVID-19 crisis. Since that time, the Division has issued three new special rulings to address additional COVID-19 related issues. Each special ruling is summarized briefly below. Special Ruling Granting Relaxation of Signature Requirement, Product Returns, Credit, Notices of Obligation, and Bill and Hold This special ruling grants relaxation of several regulations promulgated under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (the “Act”), as well as under a previous special ruling. Signature on Invoices: To comply with social distancing protocols, the Division temporarily suspended the requirement that a licensee must sign and date a delivery slip, invoice, manifest, waybill, or similar document at the time of delivery of any alcoholic beverage by a licensed manufacturer, importer, or wholesaler. It sets forth acceptable alternative methods for signature, which includes methods like sending a contemporaneous email confirming receipt, photographing the invoice and confirming electronically with the wholesaler, or...

SCOTUS Provides Clarity to Charterers in Oil Spill Case and All Parties Subject to OPA Should Take Note

SCOTUS Provides Clarity to Charterers in Oil Spill Case and All Parties Subject to OPA Should Take Note

On March 30, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that will directly affect those in the maritime charter industry, and may ripple out to anyone performing a cleanup or defending a claim under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). The case began with a 1,900-mile voyage by the M/T Athos I, which was a 748-foot single-hulled oil tanker, from Venezuela to Paulsboro, New Jersey in November 2004. Only 900 feet from the ship’s intended destination, it struck a nine ton anchor that was abandoned in the Delaware River. The anchor pierced the hull of the vessel and caused over 250,000 gallons of crude oil to spill into the river, which resulted in a $133 million cleanup. Frescati Shipping Company, the owner of the ship, together with the United States, paid for the cleanup as required under OPA, and then sought its cleanup costs from the charterer, CITGO Asphalt Refining Company (“CARCO”). The question before the High Court was “whether the safe-berth clause is a warranty of safety, imposing liability for an unsafe berth regardless of CARCO’s diligence in selecting the berth.” Frescati and the U.S. argued that CARCO breached the charter-contract’s “safe-berth” clause, which obligated CARCO to designate a...

A Refinery Is Not a Gas Station: N.J. Court Says Former Oil Operation Was Abnormally Dangerous Activity

A Refinery Is Not a Gas Station: N.J. Court Says Former Oil Operation Was Abnormally Dangerous Activity

The 1976 Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”) gave New Jersey a wide variety of new powers to address, and seek reimbursement for, environmental contamination. Despite its broad new remedies, however, it did not pre-empt or “subsume” common-law theories such as strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities. Moreover, the historical operations at an oil refinery and terminal that resulted in substantial discharges and pollution of nearby waterways could constitute an abnormally dangerous activity. So held the Appellate Division in its recent opinion in New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Hess Corporation. Hess involves a property in the Port Reading section of Woodbridge historically operated as an oil refinery and terminal. In its 2018 complaint against Hess (which developed the property in 1958 when it was known as Amerada Hess Corporation) and Buckeye Partners, LP (which acquired the property from Hess in 2013), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) alleged discharges of oil affecting the nearby Smith Creek and Arthur Kill during Hess’s period of ownership.  The NJDEP asserted claims under the Spill Act, the Water Pollution Control Act, strict liability, trespass, and public nuisance, seeking both injunctive relief and money damages in connection with the defendants’ failure...

Governor’s New Executive Order Halts Non-Essential Construction Projects Throughout New Jersey

Governor’s New Executive Order Halts Non-Essential Construction Projects Throughout New Jersey

On April 8, 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 122 (EO 122), which further limited non-essential business operations throughout the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Executive Order halts all non-essential construction as of 8:00 PM on Friday, April 10, 2020. The Executive Order expressly identifies those limited projects that may continue construction during the state of emergency. Of note, these include: Projects necessary for the delivery of healthcare services, including, but not limited to, hospitals, other healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities Transportation projects, including roads, bridges, and mass transit facilities or physical infrastructure, including work done at airports/seaports Utility projects, including those necessary for energy and electricity production and transmission, and any decommissioning of facilities used for electricity generation Residential projects that are exclusively designated as affordable housing Schools projects Projects involving single-family homes that are under contract, or a project underway on a single-family home or single apartment where an individual already resides Projects involving facilities for the manufacture, distribution, storage, or servicing of goods sold by online retailers or essential retailers Projects involving data centers or facilities that are “critical” to a business’s ability to function Projects necessary for the delivery of essential social services, including...

NJABC Issues Guidance and Provides Relief to Certain Licensees and Permit Holders During COVID-19 Crisis

NJABC Issues Guidance and Provides Relief to Certain Licensees and Permit Holders During COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unforeseen challenges to countless businesses across the country. Businesses that serve alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption have been hit particularly hard. Through Executive Order No. 107 (the “Order”), and in connection with the declared State of Emergency, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy imposed certain restrictions on restaurants and bars. On March 30, 2020, the State of New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“Division”) issued Advisory Notice 2020-03, which outlines the Division’s interpretation of the Order and provides guidance to licensees concerning the activities in which they may engage in during the COVID-19 crisis. All license holders in the state should review the advisory notice in full, in addition to some of the major points outlined below. Following those points is an explanation of the special ruling regarding Limited Brewery License holders that was issued by the Division concurrently with the advisory notice, and a summary of some recent changes in protocol for interactions with the Division and its staff. Lastly, there is a brief summary of the April 1, 2020 order issued by the Division authorizing the extension of certain alcoholic beverage permits. Advisory Notice 2020-03 Retail consumption licensees: Bars, restaurants, or other establishments...

New Jersey Issues Guidance to Assist Land Use Boards in Holding Electronic Meetings and Hearings

New Jersey Issues Guidance to Assist Land Use Boards in Holding Electronic Meetings and Hearings

In the wake of Executive Order 103 declaring the COVID-19 public health emergency and Executive Order 107 concerning restrictions on public gatherings, most planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment in New Jersey cancelled their scheduled meetings and have since been evaluating how to resume meeting in a manner that complies with social distancing requirements and Executive Order 107. This has left applicants uncertain when and in what manner their applications for development will be considered and decided. Following enactment of emergency legislation to facilitate the conduct of electronic meetings, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services, has issued guidance to specifically assist planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment with conducting public hearings electronically on applications for development. The guidance, titled “Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustments Operational Guidance – COVID-19: N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1, Recommendations for Land Use Public Meetings in New Jersey,” is a first step in assisting land use boards – some of which have been hesitant to begin holding “virtual” meetings – with the mechanics of arranging for and conducting electronic meetings and public hearings. The Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) requires land use boards to hold meetings at least monthly. Such...

New York City and State Close Down All “Non-Essential” Construction

New York City and State Close Down All “Non-Essential” Construction

As noted in our blog published on March 24, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 20, 2020 Executive Order 202.8 directed all “non-essential” businesses to implement remote work policies for 100% of their workforces, effective March 22 through April 19, 2020. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) issued initial guidance on March 24, 2020, whereby it interpreted the Order to allow, as a category of “essential business,” “construction,” “including skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers,” and “for essential infrastructure or for emergency repairs and safety purposes.” ESDC updated and clarified its guidance on March 27, stating that “[a]ll non-essential construction must be shut down, except for emergency construction” and certain types of “essential construction.” Per the updated guidance, “emergency construction” includes “a project necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow to remain undone until it is safe to shut the site.” “Essential construction” includes “roads, bridges, transit facilities, utilities, hospitals or health care facilities, affordable housing and homeless shelters.” Even at emergency or essential construction sites, social distancing must be able to be maintained, or the site must shut down. Violations are punishable by fines of up...

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Temporarily Relaxes Construction Code Provisions Relating to Minor Work, Inspections, and Certificate Requirements

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Temporarily Relaxes Construction Code Provisions Relating to Minor Work, Inspections, and Certificate Requirements

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 107 (“EO 107”) on March 21, 2020, mandating that all non-essential brick-and-mortar retail businesses close to the public as long as EO 107 remains in effect. EO 107 does not require closure of construction projects. Not only does EO 107 identify “construction workers” as an example of employees who need to be physically present at their work sites in order to perform their duties, but also, shortly after issuing EO 107, Governor Murphy sent a tweet confirming that work at construction sites may continue. On the same date that Governor Murphy issued EO 107, he issued Executive Order No. 108 (“EO 108”), which provides that local officials may not enact or enforce rules or regulations that conflict with EO 107. Although work at construction sites continues in New Jersey, there are myriad ways in which construction projects can be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 virus. One potential impact concerns ongoing inspections of construction work performed by local construction code officials pursuant to the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), N.J.A.C. 5:23. Construction code officials routinely inspect ongoing projects at various points during construction and issue Certificates of Occupancy for...

COVID-19 – Impact on Existing and Prospective Real Estate Transactions

COVID-19 – Impact on Existing and Prospective Real Estate Transactions

Uncharted waters – we are all sailing in unchartered waters as the effects of COVID-19 impact our health, our business dealings, our government, our net worth, and our daily lives. And none of us knows what might happen from day to day or how long this crisis might last. In our transactional real estate practice, we are already dealing with multiple situations impacted by this new reality. We share the information and observations that follow to offer useful insights to our clients. Existing Contracts The overarching word that captures many of the issues spawned by the virus is “deadline.” Whether it is a closing date, the end of a due diligence period, the date by which a contingency such as the receipt of approvals or financing must be obtained, or the date of final delivery of a construction project, deadlines that were negotiated and commercially reasonable when agreed upon may no longer be possible to achieve. Government offices are shut down, and many professionals, consultants, and tradespeople are staying home. Deliveries of supplies are interrupted. In some counties, it is not possible to run title searches or record instruments such as deeds or mortgages due to the closing of recording...

Is Your Property Historic? You Might Not Think So, But Always Check!

Is Your Property Historic? You Might Not Think So, But Always Check!

In a state like New Jersey, land in urban or developed areas is often at a premium, and developers will need to be mindful of whether the property has any historical significance. In addition to the standard approvals required from local planning or zoning boards, one approval that is commonly overlooked is that of the local historic preservation office or commission. These entities are authorized under the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-107 et seq., and are now common in municipalities large and small throughout New Jersey. Where a formal commission exists, applications for development are to be referred to the historic preservation commission for review whenever applications involve property in historic districts or on historic sites identified by the official map or master plan. In other municipalities, there may be an application and approval process separate from the typical land development board. Some are required as part of completeness obligations for applications for development, where others are a separate process from the typical application for development. One active historic preservation commission has been the City of Newark’s Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission (the “Commission”). This article provides a brief primer on when Commission approval is required, and what developers...