In a recent unpublished decision, Jerman v. Township of Berkeley, a New Jersey trial court held invalid an ordinance which required the construction of sidewalks and curbs as a condition of subdivision or site plan approval, or the payment of a fee in lieu of constructing these improvements. The decision serves as a reminder that the legal authority for municipalities to impose exactions is strictly limited as provided by statute, and requires a “rational nexus” between the project and the need for the improvement.
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.
Starting August 31, 2013, municipalities will have to provide advance notice electronically or by mail of certain proceedings to landowners who have requested such notice in writing. Under amendments to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett on July 2, 2013, municipalities must provide landowners with the requested electronic notice or mailed notice of public hearings regarding the enactment of zoning ordinances and amendments.
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.
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.
Ready or not, the revised Philadelphia Zoning Code becomes effective on August 22, 2012. This massive and comprehensive overhaul of the Zoning Code, its first since 1962, required over four years to complete. It was coordinated by the thirty-one member Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission, and is the culmination of countless hours of work by the ZCC, including scores of regular meetings, informational meetings, community meetings, meetings with stakeholder groups and public hearings. The changes from the current Code are many and significant, with important modifications to base and overlay zoning districts, use categories, area and bulk requirements, floor area ratio calculations, parking standards and, perhaps most meaningful, the administrative process. We will be examining these and other major revisions in this blog on a regular basis, both as the Code’s implementation date approaches as well as after it is in effect.
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.
Experienced New Jersey developers and land use attorneys understand the challenges that face an applicant when the proposed use is not expressly permitted in the municipality’s zoning district wherethe subject property is located. The challenge is only more complicated if the proposed use involves novel or unfamiliar technology such as renewable energy. However, in New Jersey, the government has been proactive in welcoming renewable energy projects through grants and legislation, making New Jersey definitely the place to be if you want to develop property geared towards the creation of a renewable energy facility powered by solar or wind.