On March 10, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the courts will once again assume the lead role in enforcing the constitutional requirement, imposed by the Mount Laurel doctrine, that municipalities must create realistic opportunities for the construction of low and moderate income housing. The New Jersey Builders Association (NJBA), represented by Thomas F. Carroll, III, Esq. and Stephen Eisdorfer, Esq. of Hill Wallack, has played a lead role in this case.
The Supreme Court’s ruling establishes a 30 day window, commencing on June 8, 2015, for the approximately 360 municipalities that have been before COAH since 2008 to formulate compliant housing plans and voluntarily submit them to the courts for review. Municipalities that fail to file with the courts within that 30-day window, or that otherwise delay in submitting plans to the courts, will be vulnerable to lawsuits seeking constitutional compliance and ultimately site-specific builder’s remedies. The Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect the approximately 200 municipalities that have not been before COAH since 2008. Those municipalities continue to be potentially vulnerable to immediate exclusionary zoning litigation, including litigation seeking site specific builder’s remedies, unless those towns have previously acquired immunity orders or judgments of repose from the courts.
As a result, a flurry of Mount Laurel related legal filings are expected over the next few months. This next chapter of Mount Laurel compliance provides considerable opportunities to builders wishing to seek favorable rezonings and provide much-needed affordable housing. Since NJBA is an “interested party” and should be noticed on most of the legal filings, NJBA’s Land Use Counsel Hill Wallack LLP will be tracking and posting online information on the legal proceedings concerning each of NJ’s 565 municipalities. To visit Hill Wallack’s tracking webpage, please click this link.