Gov. Chris Christie on Monday signed legislation that will curtail local governments' use of eminent domain for private redevelopment and create an alternative to condemnation.
The measure, A-3615, which passed both houses of the Legislature with only one negative vote, would allow municipalities to negotiate directly with property owners without having to declare an area blighted — the constitutional standard for redevelopment condemnations.
It would also narrow the definition of blight in the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(e), in accordance with Gallenthin Realty Developments v. Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007). There, the Supreme Court held the statutory standard — that the property be in a "stagnant or not fully productive condition" — unconstitutional as applied. Under the new law, the property must be in an "unproductive condition."
The legislation is a scaled-down version of a previous bill that failed in the Senate in 2011.
The new version removed a requirement that the condemning agency provide the property owner with a copy of the appraisal, a provision allowing homeowners to provide information to and challenge appraisers, and a provision giving owners a 45-day period to review an offer, extendable up to 70 days, with rights to request more information, meet with the condemning agency and obtain their own appraisal.
The Assembly passed the bill without opposition in May. The chief sponsors were Assemblymen Albert Coutinho, D-Essex, and Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, R-Union.
"This legislation balances the need to encourage redevelopment with the rights of property owners," said Bucco in a statement. "Eminent domain can be an emotional topic for property owners. The new law clarifies an area of contention that often ends up in costly and protracted litigation."
Sen. Dawn Addiego, R-Burlington, cast the only negative vote.