LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING

In a process that took years, spanned three mayors and was led by an urban planner who just won a MacArthur “genius” award based, in part, on those efforts, the City of Newark overhauled its zoning laws in 2015.

It was the first such comprehensive revision in more than 50 years and was widely praised not only for the substance of the new zoning,  which was based upon goals of environmental justice and accountable development, but for the open, participatory process by which it was adopted

Recently, in a move that would seem to undermine the well-thought out plan embraced just two years earlier and to contradict its participatory approach, Newark amended its zoning to increase the maximum building height in part of the Ironbound. And it allegedly did so without providing nearby residents the legally required notice.  Continue reading LAWSUIT CHALLENGES IRONBOUND UPZONING

ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD VOTE TO GO FORWARD

A last ditch effort by the current Orange school board to block a public referendum on whether board members should be chosen by voters rather than the Mayor fell short on Tuesday, when the Appellate Division denied the board’s emergent motion to enjoin the vote and reverse an Oct. 20 trial court decision allowing it.

Presiding Appellate Division Judge Jack Sabatino, along with Judge Mary Whipple, agreed with the reasoning in the Oct. 20 opinion by the lower court judge, Thomas Vena, of Essex County Superior Court.

As a result, voters will get to vote on Nov. 7 whether to change from a Type I school district, with an appointed board, to a Type II school district, with an elected one.  It will be the second time they get to do so. Last year, they overwhelmingly approved it, with about 77 per cent voting in favor. In April, however, Vena declared the vote null and void, finding that the wording of the ballot question and accompanying interpretive statement did not provide sufficient information about the ramifications of the change.

The school board sought to rely on statutes that require a five year wait before a referendum can be resubmitted to the voters. NJ Appleseed Executive Director Renée Steinhagen, attorney for the Committee for an Elected School Board, who sought the referendum, argued in response that the restriction did not apply in this instance, where the referendum succeeded but was subsequently nullified.

The appeals court agreed, stating “We agree with the trial court that the public policies of N.J.S.A. 18A:9-4 and 9-5 against repetitive unsuccessful referenda do not pertain to this distinctive situation.”

See my prior post for more information about the case, City of Orange Township Board of Education v. City of Orange, ESX-L-6652-17.

EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

With less than two weeks until voters go to the polls on Nov. 7, whether City of Orange voters will get to choose an elected school board as opposed to an appointed one is once again in the hands of the courts.

Last November, voters in a public referendum overwhelmingly favored being able to choose their own school board members rather than having them picked by the Mayor, which is the current system. But a state court judge set aside the result, finding they were not provided with sufficient information to understand the ramifications of the change.

Continue reading EMERGENT APPEAL TO DECIDE IF ORANGE SCHOOL BOARD QUESTION GOES TO VOTERS

RESOUNDING WIN FOR GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

A unanimous decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court has overturned a lower court holding that would have allowed the government to deny access to vast swathes of information kept on its computers. Click here to read the decision.

The lower court had interpreted the state Open Public Records Act, aka OPRA, as mandating public access only to discrete records and not to information per se.

Continue reading RESOUNDING WIN FOR GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

COURT NIXES RULE LIMITING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

A two-year-old rule that makes it harder to collect unemployment benefits in New Jersey has been struck down in court.

On May 1, a three-judge Appellate Division panel invalidated N.J.A.C. 12:17-2.1 as arbitrary and capricious, finding it illogical and confusing and calling it a “linguistic morass, one that cannot be readily or sensibly understood and applied.”

Continue reading COURT NIXES RULE LIMITING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

NJ APPLESEED FIGHTS FOR OPEN SPACE ON HOBOKEN WATERFRONT

Context of this Case

A battle over whether a developer will be allowed to renege on a promise to provide open space on the Hoboken waterfront was argued before the Appellate Division on February 28.

New Jersey Appleseed’s Renee Steinhagen represents Fund for a Better Waterfront in several related appeals involving the Monarch Towers development.

The dispute concerns whether two 11 -story condominium towers can be built on a nearly two-acre waterfront parcel where the developer promised in 1997 to provide open space, including tennis courts and the final segment of the developer’s Hudson River Waterfront Walkway.

The construction faces fierce public opposition and would violate Hoboken ordinances that prohibit residential development on piers and platforms over the Hudson River. Those ordinances were adopted in December of 2013 in response to Superstorm Sandy, and in conformance with newly adopted federal and state standards to protect communities from flood hazards.

Read below about this case and NJ Appleseed’s work: Ron Hine reports for the Fund for a Better Waterfront.

Continue reading NJ APPLESEED FIGHTS FOR OPEN SPACE ON HOBOKEN WATERFRONT

RULE PROTECTING RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS SURVIVES COURT CHALLENGES.

UPDATE: Since this article was posted, District Judge Crabtree in the Kansas case followed the lead of Judge Lynn on February 17, granting summary judgment for the Department of Labor and denying a cross motion by  plaintiff Market Synergy Group, which sought to block the rule.

Just days after Donald Trump took steps to derail a rule meant to protect retirement investments, a federal court decision has bolstered hopes for its survival.

The regulation, known as the fiduciary rule, was adopted by the Department of Labor (DOL) last April and took effect in June 2016. Compliance was to start on April 10 of this year, with some aspects of the rule not set to kick in until 2018.

The rule requires financial advisers to act in the best interest of the clients who pay them for their professional advice and prohibits them from recommending or selling inferior or more costly investments that will garner them higher commissions.

Continue reading RULE PROTECTING RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS SURVIVES COURT CHALLENGES.