Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a green light to developers and other interested parties to eventually pursue builders’ remedy actions in New Jersey Superior Court. The decision is the latest in a battle over affordable housing that has been in and out of the courts since the Mount Laurel decision in 1975. Most recently, in September 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the Council on Affordable Housing’s (“COAH”) latest attempt at adopting affordable housing regulations and ordered COAH to adopt new regulations within five months. That period was eventually extended to November 2014. COAH, however, did not adopt new regulations. Its inaction prompted a motion in aid of litigants’ rights, whereby parties to the prior action sought to break the bureaucratic logjam. Last week’s decision, designating trial courts as the venue for affordable housing disputes, is the New Jersey Supreme Court’s solution to the logjam.
Beginning January 1, 2015, any New Yorker who disposes of an old computer, television, or even an iPod, i.e., “electronic waste” (“e-waste”), by placing that item in the garbage or leaving it on the curb for collection will be in violation of the New York State Electronic Recycling and Reuse Act, N.Y. Envtl. Conserv. Law § 27-2601, et seq.. Individual consumers will instead be required to recycle such e-waste by dropping it off at a registered e-waste collector or by returning it to an e-waste manufacturer, or risk being fined $100 each time they fail to do so.
One stop shopping. That is the goal of the bill that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed into law on January 13, 2014, creating the Philadelphia Land Bank. The Land Bank, which is to be fully operational by the end of this year, is intended to streamline and consolidate the process by which the City acquires and sells vacant and tax delinquent properties. The Land Bank will also act as the single repository for the approximately 9,500 vacant and surplus properties currently owned by the City through three separate entities: the City, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation.
Well that didn’t take long. Last August, following a four year process, the City of Philadelphia’s comprehensive new zoning code became law. Because of the law’s broad scope and sweeping changes, it was agreed that the Code would be revisited one year after its enactment to determine its effectiveness and to consider making any necessary changes. Yet, on January 24, 2013, a mere 5 months later ,the Philadelphia City Council, overriding a veto by Mayor Michael Nutter, passed Bill No. 120889 by a vote of 13-3 and amended the new Code, significantly complicating pre-hearing interaction between neighbors and developers which the Code was intended to streamline. While Council has enacted some minor “clean-up” amendments to the Code since August, this amendment could have substantial consequences.
The redevelopment of vacant and blighted parcels has been a cumbersome, frustrating and, in many cases unsuccessful, process for municipalities and developers alike. Pennsylvania’s new land bank legislation could change all that. Philadelphia, with its own land bank legislation is poised to take advantage of the state legislation.
This article is the second in a series that deals with the legal implications of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated many areas of New Jersey on October 29, 2012. Owners of property with a structure that has suffered substantial damage or that has been destroyed should be aware that they may qualify for a lower property tax assessment, which may result in lower property taxes next year.
On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated many areas of New Jersey, with the coastal areas seeing unprecedented devastation. Residents and business owners from the Jersey Shore, including the bayshore areas, face the daunting task of rebuilding. Many business and property owners, however, cannot simply apply for a building permit to replace damaged structures. For many, it will be an uphill legal battle to rebuild. This is particularly true for property owners who had been operating nonconforming uses.
On November 7, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court will be hearing oral argument as to whether the latest regulations adopted by the Council on Affordable Housing (“COAH”) are valid. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, the decision will have a far-ranging impact on the future of affordable housing in New Jersey and is being watched closely by developers, municipalities and public interest groups.
All in favor of residential property tax relief, raise your hand! And, if you own an eligible home in the City of Philadelphia, apply now. The City is offering its residential homeowners the opportunity to apply for a Homestead Exemption. The Homestead Exemption would reduce the assessed value of an eligible home by $15,000 or more, and consequently lower the real estate taxes owed by the homeowner because the homeowner would pay real estate tax only on the reduced assessment.
The revised Philadelphia Zoning Code will be effective before your Labor Day barbeque is over, and there is a smorgasbord of changes to digest. For instance, let’s take “notice,” a contentious issue the new Code seeks to resolve with procedural safeguards and requirements. A frequent area of conflict under the current (soon to be former) Code centered on interactions between developers and neighbors during the zoning/use approval process. Many times, a developer would complain that it did not know which neighborhood civic association represented a particular area, or that a civic association’s meeting schedule resulted in delays in the zoning hearing and approval process. Conversely, neighbors would charge that they were not given adequate notice of applications filed or permits issued with enough lead time to have meaningful input into the process. The revised Code seeks to balance the property owner/developer’s interest in certainty, both in terms of time required to complete the application process and identification of potentially interested parties, against the neighbors’ need for notice of the application and an opportunity to participate.