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Getting Into Deptford
by Ron Davis

The embattled developer of a proposed New Jersey shopping has finally won the right to proceed with the project as planned.

The developer is AIG Baker Real Estate, and the shopping center is set for construction in the town of Deptford. Local government approval of the project has been difficult, however. That’s because a citizens group has voiced opposition to the construction plans, and Deptford government officials at first seemed to listen to that group.

So when the developer initially applied for a construction permit, Deftford’s planning board pointed out that the developer’s construction plans did not comply with development standards. After hearings, at which local citizens verbally assailed the project, the planning board refused to approve construction.

The developer then revised the plans to conform with the standards set by the planning board. After additional hearings, town council adopted new regulations that set limitations on a retailer’s hours of operation and on building-plan applications.

The developer sued, contesting the two newly adopted regulations and arguing that they are unconstitutional. And a federal court ruled that the regulations are indeed unconstitutional and could not apply in this case. Moreover, the court found that the developer’s application fully conformed to Deptford’s prior regulations. In response, the Deftford planning board approved the developer’s plans.

That action did not sit well with the local citizens group, however. Its members sued both the developer and the planning board, charging that the board’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable” and that the developer’s plans did not comply with local standards for a shopping center.

A New Jersey court disagreed with the argument of the citizens group. Explained the judge, “It appears that the [developer] presented sufficient information for the planning board to determine that the application fell within the definition of a ‘shopping center’ under local regulations.... We find nothing in the record to indicate that the board acted arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably in finding that the application conformed to the definition of a shopping center and required no waivers or variances.” (Aubrey v. Deptford Township Planning Board, 2007 WL 1661581 [N.J.Super A.D.])

Decision: June 2007
Published: July 2007



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