The Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company is the owner of approximately 328 acres of low-lying land, largely or wholly within the Township of Lyndhurst, Bergen County.
It is gathered from the briefs and accompanying affidavits, about which there is no factual dispute, that the County of
Bergen has been negotiating since April 1963 for the acquisition, by purchase, of 358 acres of land, including that of the railroad company, located in the Township of Lyndhurst and Borough of North Arlington, municipal corporations situate in the County of Bergen. The negotiations had reached a point on June 5, 1963 that the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Bergen County adopted a resolution authorizing the execution of the agreement to purchase. On July 19, 1963 said agreement and a check for $30,000 as a deposit were forwarded to Mr. David A. Lerch, General Land and Tax Attorney for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company at Cleveland, Ohio. The agreement, unexecuted by the railroad, and the check, were returned on July 23, 1963 with the information that an offer to buy the land had been made by several Essex County municipalities and, therefore, the competing offers would complicate procurement of approval of the sale by the Board of Public Utility Commissioners.
Joint Meeting No. 1 for solid Waste Disposal is a body politic exercising public and governmental functions to provide for the public health and welfare. It was organized and established pursuant to the Consolidated Municipal Service Act of 1952, as amended, N.J.S.A. 40:48B-1 et seq. , by a joint contract entered into on August 10, 1961 by and between the Borough of Glen Ridge, the Township of Cedar Grove, the City of Orange, the Town of Montclair, the City of East Orange, the Town of Bloomfield and the Borough of Verona, municipal corporations located in the County of Essex. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48B-2, these municipalities adopted ordinances and entered into a contract providing for the formation of the Joint Meeting to acquire, construct, maintain and operate a solid waste disposal system for the use and benefit of the named municipal corporations and for the use of such other municipalities and other persons as may be authorized so to do by the Joint Meeting.
At a special meeting on September 11, 1963 the management committee of the Joint Meeting adopted a resolution to acquire lands, including those of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad
Company, for the maintenance and operation of a solid waste disposal system.
The Joint Meeting is authorized by N.J.S.A. 40:48B-2.1(b) to acquire real and personal property by deed, gift, grant, lease, purchase, condemnation or otherwise in any municipality in the State of New Jersey. However, this power is not unlimited or unrestricted. N.J.S.A. 40:48B-2.1(i) provides:
"To acquire * * * lands * * * in any municipality in the State, except where the governing body of such municipality, by resolution adopted within 30 days after receipt of written notice of intention to so acquire, maintain, use or operate, shall find that the same would adversely affect the governmental operations and functions and the exercise of the police powers of such municipality."
The counties of the State, through their boards of chosen freeholders, may acquire by purchase, gift or condemnation any real estate, easements and the like, deemed necessary or useful for the proper exercise of any power expressly or impliedly conferred upon them by virtue of the provisions of R.S. 40:32-2, which general power and right is conceded by the Joint Meeting. Likewise, the county concedes the Joint Meeting's limited power to condemn land in another municipality, N.J.S.A. 40:48B-2.1(i) supra.
The Joint Meeting filed its complaint seeking condemnation of the land of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad Company on September 13, 1963, and the usual order to show cause was made returnable on December 6, 1963. The County of Bergen filed its complaint seeking the condemnation of the same property on September 18, 1963, and that order ...