Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the commentary by Mr Ward. Click here to read the complete text, including links to appropriate reference material:
Yesterday over 50 concerned citizens, tenants, owners, and friends dressed in "Stop Eminent Domain Abuse" tee-shirts and gathered at the Essex County Courthouse for the first skirmish of the battle with Bloomfield on the right to take these properties through eminent domain proceedings. As reported in today's Star Ledger, the group has been fighting the project, which they said would illegally take their land and businesses.
"They are trying to say my building is blighted, and there is no way it is blighted," said Alessandro Lardieri, who owns a building at Bloomfield Avenue and Ward Street.
But Judge Claude M. Coleman dismissed the action in lieu of Prerogative Writ brought by four property owners contesting the designation of their properties as blighted (a.k.a., an area in need of redevelopment). This was accomplished with no findings of fact and conclusion of law as required by R. 1:7-4. Judge Coleman simply said that the litigants were beyond the 45 days to contest municipal action.
Judge Coleman refused to recognize this case as a matter of "public interest" or "in the interests of justice" two reasons to extend beyond the 45 days per the decision in Concerned Citizens of Princeton, Inc. v. Mayor and Council of the Borough of Princeton, 370 N.J. Super 429, 851A.2d 685 (App. Div. 2004). Judge Coleman's ruling was made despite proofs that when the underlying action was before the planning board, and the mayor and council, the same attorneys represented both entities with regard to plaintiff's properties and the adoption of the blight study. This is improper conduct and the Supreme Court has said so in ethics opinions and in dicta in the case of Wilson v. City of Long Branch.
New Jersey Eminent Domain Law Blog: www.njeminentdomain.com