Thursday, December 07, 2006
The state Supreme Court today granted its approval to what has been called a new weapon for towns fighting development.
In a 6-1 ruling, the court said that towns have a statutory right to use eminent domain to condemn properties for open space.
"The citizens of New Jersey have expressed a strong and sustained public interest in the acquisition and preservation of open space," the court wrote in a brief unauthored decision. Former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, Justices Virginia Long, James Zazzali, the current chief, Barry Albin, Jaynee LaVecchia and James Wallace joined in the four-page opinion.
In the name of eminent domain, Mount Laurel took land a builder was going to use for a 23-house project. The town said it wanted to preserve the 16 acres - one of the few undeveloped properties in town. Last year, a state appeals court ruled the town acted properly.
The majority tempered its decision, saying the developer should be paid the property's fair maket value....
The case has been followed by critics of last year's controversial ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed local governments wide latitude to condemn and knock down homes and businesses to foster private economic development.
Visit judiciary.state.nj.us to read the decision.