The New Jersey Supreme Court has issued a landmark Mt. Laurel decision that divests the executive branch of State government from review of municipal affordable housing compliance and places it squarely back in the control of the judiciary. This move sends a strong rebuke to what the Court characterized as a "moribund" Council on Affordable Housing ("COAH"). A link to the opinion can be found here. The New Jersey Supreme Court set forth a detailed procedure for municipalities to follow to obtain a declaration of compliance from the trial courts, with municipalities that already have substantive certification from COAH or that in some way "participated" with COAH being permitted to seek declaratory judgment from the trial court. A judgment of compliance will protect municipalities from builders' remedy lawsuits, which could result in an order that the municipality accept higher density development. Importantly, the New Jersey Supreme Court directed the courts to use COAH's first and second round methodologies to calculate prospective need for municipalities, clarifying that growth-share methodology is not acceptable.
The Court's Order will go into effect 90 days from March 10, 2015 in order to give the trial courts time to implement the new process. The Court also left room for COAH to regain its power if it adopts new, constitutional regulations or if the State Legislature otherwise acts.
The decision will have a significant impact on the development community and will certainly create a more favorable climate for rezoning applications. For additional information on the decision and for assistance in navigating this new legal landscape, please contact Kevin J. Coakley and Meghan Barrett Burke with Connell Foley's Real Estate & Land Use Group.
Kevin J. Coakley
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