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Gallenthin Realty Dev., Inc. v. Paulsboro, Borough of

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20141
Nos. No. A_51, (N.J., 06/13/2007)

The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the New Jersey Constitution authorizes government redevelopment of "blighted areas" only. The case arose after a town classified a 63-acre parcel of largely vacant wetlands as "not fully productive." This classification rendered it "in need of redevelopment" and, thus, subject to eminent domain. The court ruled that the town's interpretation of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5, which equates "blighted areas" to areas that are not operated in an optimal manner, cannot be reconciled with the New Jersey Constitution. Although the meaning of “blight” has evolved, the term retains its essential characteristic: deterioration or stagnation that negatively affects surrounding properties. Under the town's approach, any property that is operated in a less than optimal manner is arguably “blighted.” If such an all-encompassing definition of “blight” were adopted, most property in the state would be eligible for redevelopment. Moreover, the overall structure of N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5 suggests that the state legislature did not intend subsection (e), which pertains to defects in title and diversity of ownership, to be as broadly applied as the town contends. Rather, the legislature intended N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-5(e) to apply only to property that has become stagnant because of issues of title, diversity of ownership, or other similar conditions in accordance with the state constitution.