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August 8th, 2008 — By — In News & Events

Appeals Court Victory for Long Branch Homeowners

TRENTON, NJ (August 7, 2008) — A three judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division entered an opinion in favor of Long Branch homeowners reversing a previous decision in the Superior Court and remanding the matter back to the lower court for rehearing.

In a 2006 decision by Judge Lawrence Lawson, the City of Long Branch was granted the power to condemn the appellants residential properties under the designation of “blight” and for the purpose of redevelopment. Yesterday, the appellate court ruled, first, that the lower court misapplied New Jersey law and, second, that city’s redevelopment study proved “insignificant to constitute substantial evidence” of blight. This decision by the appellate court is in line with the New Jersey Supreme Court decision Gallenthin Realty Development, Inc. v. Borough of Paulsboro, 191 N.J. 344 (2007). In Gallenthin, the high court reaffirmed that the New Jersey Constitution requires a finding of actual blight before private property may be taken for redevelopment.

The attorneys representing the Long Branch homeowners include Scott Bullock, a senior attorney with the Intistute for Justice. In his Castle Watch Daily blog entry, Chris Grodecki quotes Mr. Bullock, “The Court basically told the city that if that’s all it has, it can’t take these homes.” He is further quoted as saying, “It’s too late for the city to manufacture more evidence, so the Court’s ruling is a fatal blow to the city. We are confident the owners will prevail on remand.”

For more commentary and images of what the City of Long Branch considers “blight,” visit the Castle Coalition.

The full opinion of the appellate court is available on line here.

Disclosure: OCA Member Edward McKirdy of McKirdy & Riskin, Morristown, New Jersey, filed an amicus brief on behalf of The Reason Foundation and in support of appellant/landowners.