Land Use and Redevelopment
Developing and repurposing the use of land in the State of New Jersey has become increasingly difficult as new laws and regulations impose restrictions and extra layers of government oversight. At every turn in the development process, resistance and complications seem to surface quickly at the municipal, county, and state levels, confusing what started out as a clear vision of development.
Navigating through this process successfully, expeditiously, and cost-effectively requires a level of experience and ability that is second nature to Porzio’s Land Use and Redevelopment team.
Before acquiring property, and at each step along the way, Porzio lawyers help clients fully understand the intricacies of developing or redeveloping property, identifying and working to resolve the often hidden challenges that threaten development plans. Are there environmental concerns? What permits will be needed? Are there zoning restrictions that make approvals unlikely? Is there local support? Recognizing and addressing potential impediments upfront is critical to a successful project.
At Porzio, we recognize that knowing the law is not enough; one must know and understand the people and dynamics that intersect in each development project. We pursue a holistic approach that includes bringing impacted parties on board, assembling the right people or experts to prove that the prospective change can be positive, and educating authorities and neighbors. Ultimately, those affected need to believe that the proposed changes will improve the neighborhood, protect and enhance the quality of life and bring new tax ratables without causing overcrowding, congestion, pollution, or other negative impacts.
Our team’s experience in processing land use approvals is substantial, including obtaining hundreds of approvals since 1975. Unfortunately, the land use arena in New Jersey has become a battlefield. We lead clients through municipal, county, and state permitting processes; developer, developer, and joint venture agreements; bonding; and agreements with municipal utility authorities.
Once plans are approved, we pursue additional client objectives: contract and change order drafting, building permits, local and DCA plan review, field changes disputes, and a host of other project-specific actions.
Sometimes, problems seem insurmountable. Yet, thoughtful and strategic positioning, open communications, and creative solutions make a significant difference in the outcome.
With over 35 years of experience, our team has successfully prosecuted thousands of development applications throughout the State.
Our background includes extensive experience obtaining approvals and permits from:
- Municipal Planning Boards
- Municipal Zoning Boards
- County Planning Boards
- County Soil Conservation Districts
- New Jersey Highlands Council
- New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
- New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
- New Jersey Department of Transportation
We Have Unique and Diversified Development Experience
Our team proudly takes credit for leading a wide range of development projects through to build-out, inclusive of:
- Residential (Single-Family Projects, Subdivisions, Multi-family, Mixed-use and Nonprofit Development)
- Restaurants and Fast-Food Establishments
- Gas station upgrades and convenience stores
- Self-storage facilities
- Auto dealerships
- Retail Centers
- Professional Office Parks
- Bank Branch Centers
- Surgical Centers
- Solar Fields
- Industrial Parks and Warehouses
Our land use attorneys assess and address hidden development constraints early on, such as identifying potential environmental constraints, traffic issues, acoustic violations and related regulatory issues.
Forming a Winning Team Together
A diversified development team is imperative in order to achieve a successful outcome. Our land use attorneys participate in a large network of design and planning professionals who often join our development team to secure various agency approvals. To achieve client goals we regularly collaborate with engineers specializing in civil design, structural, traffic and acoustic areas of expertise; architects; professional planners and environmental consultants.
- A client approached us after seeking a means to permit the creation of 100 condominium units on property zoned for office use. Before our engagement, a use variance was denied. We promptly scheduled meetings with neighboring property owners and members of the governing body. Through pertinent analysis and discussion, we convinced all those concerned that the proposed residential condominiums were a better land use alternative in terms of a ratable and enhanced neighboring property values. We then made formal presentations to the Planning Board and the governing body resulting in the introduction of an ordinance to change the zoning and allow the proposed development as a matter of right without any variances.
- A client sought to develop a 500-acre tract in Morris County that presented significant topographical and environmental challenges, including contaminated groundwater migration from an adjacent property. After meeting with the adjoining property owners, we presented a groundwater remediation plan to the NJDEP and sought approval from the Wetlands Mitigation Council for recognition and credit for a portion of the land included in a transition area-averaging plan. Advocacy of the plan resulted in mitigation credit and NJDEP approval for the subdivision. The strategy satisfied all stakeholders and resulted in a highly successful project.
- Our client bought a hotel with plans for a multi-million dollar renovation. We spent several months working with the developer and the municipality on a multitude of code issues, including fire suppression, electrical, handicap access and stormwater management. We obtained the required land use approvals and building permits, assisted with a liquor license transfer and, when the renovation was completed, helped the client successfully and profitably flip the property.
- In connection with a residential development in Randolph Township we argued before the Supreme Court of New Jersey, resulting in the reported decision of Pizzo Mantin Group v. Township of Randolph, 137 N.J. 216 (1994). One of the most frequently cited precedents in the land use field, this case stands for the proposition that Planning Boards do not have the authority to deny a subdivision application based on considerations of the general welfare purposes of the municipal land use law. The Court ruled that the Planning Board must approve a subdivision unless it fails to comply with specific ordinance requirements adopted by the municipality.
The common law that interprets the statutory redevelopment scheme in New Jersey is evolving rapidly. As a result, representation in redevelopment matters requires sophisticated business analysis and an innovative and strategic approach, rather than a mechanical commitment to past practices. Redevelopment projects are, by their very nature, complex, calling into play a variety of issues, from municipal finance and procedure to environmental, land use and political concerns.
One of the biggest challenges for a redeveloper is the choice of the right attorney and law firm to coordinate the many variables. It is insufficient merely to be familiar with regulations and statutes. A lawyer must be in the trenches, aware of the nuances, for instance, of local municipal elections and the issues critical to governmental officials. Porzio attorneys engage in meaningful communications with municipalities and planning boards to ensure that redevelopment projects have support. Their relationships with the major players in redevelopment projects help them to identify and understand the key issues.
Our lawyers also have front-line experience with PILOTS, understand the statutory triggers to satisfy redevelopment plans and anticipate the structures which provide flexibility for financing and joint venturing.
When drafting complaints and other pleadings, our strong transactional real estate background enables us to be proactive in framing new issues, helping us to shape the law that governs redevelopment. We have access to seasoned and respected experts — engineers, traffic consultants, environmental consultants, planners, financial consultants, and lobbyists — to ensure that clients enter the game with the best possible team.
The diverse capabilities of Porzio attorneys assist clients in meeting the challenges of large redevelopment projects. In these major engagements, the well-orchestrated coordination of Porzio’s land use, environmental, governmental affairs, tax-driven financing, and transactional and litigation strengths help us make a difference, whether our clients are large corporate landowners of brownfields and blighted industrial sites, redevelopers, governmental bodies, and not-for-profit entities.
Porzio attorneys have helped numerous clients in redevelopment projects in Newark, New Jersey. We help developers navigate the redevelopment process, from initial designation through project construction. The firm’s historic and ongoing experience in this city aids our clients, including DuPont, Avis, NJIT and TEAM Academy Charter School, in navigating this complicated political and redevelopment environment.
Significant changes in redevelopment laws, particularly the Galenthindecision, have increased the burden for private developers and municipalities trying to encourage redevelopment. Our experience and analysis allows Porzio to counsel landowners and redevelopers in the creative structuring and substantiation of redevelopment designations and agreements.
Consistent with our commitment to maintaining expert knowledge of all matters affecting our clients, we nurture a culture of personalization and discipline in understanding each important legal development. We monitor NJDEP regulations, COAH, Transportation District assessments and condemnation case law to understand the manner in which they impact our clients.
Our attorneys coordinate with developers, county and state agencies, consultants, and other stakeholders to transform community properties. Examples of our services include:
- Processing and presenting redevelopment projects on behalf of redevelopers before Planning Boards;
- Working in conjunction with developers and municipalities on the formulation of redevelopment plans; and
- Assisting redevelopers pursuing long-term tax exemptions (PILOT) including the negotiation and drafting of financial agreements with municipalities.
Clients also benefit from Porzio's Environmental Law practice and extensive network of consultants.
- A publicly traded REIT, developing a brownfields site and anxious to get its proposed warehouse facility approved and profitable, turned to Porzio. The challenge included: coordinating plan design elements with two municipalities; dealing with permitting complications and municipal financing questions; accessing NJDEP environmental remediation reimbursement programs; resolving ancient and arcane title issues; and resolving a tenancy dispute. Our quarterbacking role included the coordination of a property swap with the Port Authority on this Portfields project. The project was further complicated by a residential neighborhood in an adjacent town concerned with traffic issues, and the resultant approvals and completion of a new interchange at a major artery.
- A Fortune 100 corporation has engaged Porzio to represent it in the disposition of a site in Newark. We are working towards the client’s goal of maximizing the sales price while minimizing any residual environmental liability. The site has been designated as "in need of redevelopment" and will accommodate an extensive warehouse facility. We have initiated litigation challenging the designation of the current redeveloper.
- Porzio successfully represented then Newark Mayor-elect Cory Booker on a pro bono basis in setting aside a large number of land sales to individuals favored by a prior administration, resulting in the return of property worth millions of dollars to the City of Newark.
- We served as the initial counsel to the Morristown Redevelopment Agency. Our efforts helped to create this body, which has, in a relatively short time, facilitated the fundamental redevelopment of the Town. The agency’s redevelopment projects have included a Transit Village with hundreds of residential units, retail and office space, and multiple levels of parking decks.
- Our representation of an existing big-box retail client facilitated the conversion of a former manufacturing site into a multi-tenant center. Completion of the deal depended upon many "moving parts" — accumulating various adjacent parcels to increase the footprint of the site; extensive and sophisticated negotiations with the county over condemnation for a state and federally funded highway project; oversight of policy language; and thoughtful negotiations of premiums regarding environmental insurance by multiple insurers.