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Inmar Assocs., Inc. v. Carlstadt, Borough of

Citation: 17 ELR 20504
No. Nos. A-5820-84T7, A-547-85T1, 518 A.2d 1110/214 N.J. Super. 256, (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., 12/10/1986)

The court holds that the New Jersey Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act (ECRA) applies prospectively only and a commercial taxpayer is not entitled to a reduction in the assessed value of a property based upon the costs of cleaning up hazardous waste on the property pursuant to ECRA's requirements. The court first rules that ECRA applies prospectively only, since neither the statute nor the legislative history indicates any intent to give the Act retroactive effect. The court then rules that hazardous waste cleanup costs under ECRA are not to be considered in determining the true value of a property for assessment purposes. The court holds, therefore, that two commercial landowners who had sought tax abatements in the New Jersey Tax Court are not entitled to reductions in their properties' assessed value as a result of state-mandated environmental cleanups. Even in their contaminated condition, the properties have substantial value, since there is no suggestion that they cannot be cleaned up to the state's satisfaction. The mere fact that cleanup may be costly is not a sufficient reason to exempt the properties from taxation. Moreover, the contamination was self-imposed, rather than a government imposition. Cases cited by one plaintiff for its argument that the cost of mandatory cleanup should be considered a business repair are inapposite, since they involved burdens placed upon the lands in question for the benefit of the public rather than burdens that create a health hazard. The court notes that even if it granted landowners a tax abatement for the cleanup costs, they would still eventually bear the costs, since the taxing district can seek reimbursement from the landowners for lost tax revenues.

Counsel for Appellant
Steven R. Irwin
80 Main St., West Orange NJ 07052
(201) 325-0011

Counsel for Respondent
John J. Langan Jr.
Langan and Lynch
401 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack NJ 07306
(201) 447-5252

Before Judges J. H. COLEMAN, R. S. COHEN and GRUCCIO.