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Post Info TOPIC: U.S Supreme Court Declines to hear case against NJ's Highlands Act

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U.S Supreme Court Declines to hear case against NJ's Highlands Act


This was in the July 8, 2010 Daily Record - - -


U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear case against NJ's Highlands Act


New Jersey's Highlands law has passed its final legal hurdle, as the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear landowners' contentions that the 2004 law is unconstitutional.

On June 28, the court denied the petition by nine property owners, including David Shope and Charles Shoop of Long Valley and Andrew and Lois Drysdale of Chester Township, seeking to overturn the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act.

In April, they filed papers are asking the nation's highest court to hear their argument that the law is an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They contended land owners lost $16 billion in equity due to the law.

"The Highlands Act is not only constitutional, it's the law of the land,'' said Jeff
Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, about the decision. "We need to get beyond all the challenges and start implementing the law.''

The landowners originally also contended in state Superior Court that the New Jersey Highlands Council did not have the authority to adopt a master plan for the 860,000-acre region that includes much of Morris County, that the region's boundaries were not scientifically based and that the transfer of development rights program would not be a viable source of funding. Their case was rejected by the all three state courts before they sought to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court denied the petition without comment.

"This avenue is dead-ended for us,'' said Shope, a vocal opponent of the law since its enactment. "There are other cases working their way through the process.''

He said he wasn't surprised by the denial because of the Supreme Court's record on similar cases but still was disappointed.

"What does it mean when you own private property?'' said Shope.

He said landowners will continue to work in other ways to try to get the law changed, including by lobbying officials in the state Department of Environmental Protection for relief.

That may be coming soon.

During an editorial board meeting at the Daily Record on Tuesday, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said he expects to give Gov. Chris Christie in "early autumn'' a comprehensive plan including proposed regulatory, legislative and policy changes regarding the Highlands. Among those, the DEP is revisiting the science behind the strict rules limiting the number of new septic systems allowed in that half the region, called the preservation area, to one on 25 farm acres or 88 forest acres, that have essentially stopped all large-scale development.

"The governor is supportive of the Highlands. There needs to be protection of the lands, but he wants us to look at all the issues,'' Martin said. He cited land owners' complaints about lost land equity due to the regulatory prohibition on large scale developments as the top priority in need of attention.

"I understand in a lot of cases their frustration is justified,'' he said. "They have
been shortchanged. There were promises made. The state needs to make good on those promises.''

Eileen Swan, the council's executive director, said the law contains several measures meant to help land owners.

"The Highlands Act includes a number of provisions to address landowner equity for property owners with large lots including exemptions, waivers, the dual appraisal method for land preservation, and the Transfer of Development Rights Program,'' she said.

Tittel warned against changing the Highlands Act given it has just passed its last test: "This is also a message to the Christie administration: Don't try to weaken what the court just upheld.''




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Guess thats not good for CC and good for us as far as that goes, but I do understand and sympathize with those landowners. Everything they said against the law is correct. It was a purely arbitrary and mostly politically based division which cost a lot of people a lot of money. NJ is just a smaller version of CA. Legislate, Regulate, or Litagate everything, tax the hell out of everybody and then sit back and scratch your head as to why people are moving out in droves. C.

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