February 16th, 2009 — By — In News & Events

New twist in eminent domain dispute between neighboring New Jersey towns

On Friday, NorthJersey.com reported that the city of Fairview may drop its opposition to the neighboring town of Cliffside Park’s condemnation of private property in Fairview’s jurisdiction. We previously posted an AP article about the dispute between the boroughs of Fairview and Cliffside Park regarding Cliffside Park’s attempt to take private property in Fairview. (See post January 21, 2009: “Eminent domain dispute between New Jersey towns; Property owner caught in the middle.”)

The property desired by Cliffside Park is owned by the Tapkas family and is currently leased to Cliffside Park through 2012. The property and the improvements located on it have been used for the storage and maintenance of the borough’s public works vehicles. Cliffside Park has claimed that the seizure of the Tapkas property is necessary because the current lease for the property will expire before the construction of a new public works facility on another site will be completed. The kicker here is Cliffside Park began leasing the property in 2007 after it lost the use of its own public works garage to a downtown redevelopment project. Additionally, Fairview and Cliffside Park have already entered into an agreement to construct a joint public works facility on a site in which the property has already been acquired.

Interestingly, the property upon which the proposed joint public works facility would be built is located in Fairview and was acquired, with Fairview’s blessing, by Cliffside Park using eminent domain. However, Fairview did not permit the seizure of the Tapkas property when Cliffside Park filed it’s eminent domain action in 2008 and has been arguing opposition to the taking until recently. It appears that Fairview might be changing its position.

Last week, the boroughs were granted a 30-day extension to reach an agreement on construction of a joint facility by the Superior Court Judge. This extension delays the Court’s ruling on whether Cliffside Park has authority to take the Tapkas property in Fairview.

The boroughs are considering “regionalization” of their public works departments – one location, joint facilities, reduced costs and overhead. On the surface, it might sound good for both communities. However, the fact that the 2 cities have already acquired one property by eminent domain and now are considering a second property for the same purpose combined with the lack of agreement thus far on the seizure of the second property suggests that these two neighboring towns are not necessarily ready to share in regionalization.

At this time, the question of whether the eminent domain action initiated by Cliffside Park has merit will be decided by a Superior Court Judge on March 16. We will continue to follow and post about this story as the twists and turns unfold.

Note: The NJ property owner, the Tapkas family, is represented by Anthony Della Pelle of McKirdy & Riskin, Morristown, NJ. Ed McKirdy, New Jersey member of the Owners’ Counsel of America, and the attorneys at McKirdy & Riskin dedicate their practice to the defense of private property owners throughout New Jersey.

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