The narrow issue presented on this motion for injunctive relief is whether the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission (Commission) has jurisdiction to regulate construction of an addition to a sewage plant owned and operated by the Bergen County Sewer Authority (Authority).
The Authority was established as a public corporation shortly after the enactment of N.J.S.A. 40:36A-1 et seq. in 1946. Its history and purposes are described in reported decisions and need not be elaborated upon here. See Little Ferry v. Bergen County Sewer Auth., 9 N.J. 536 (1952); Bergen Cty. Sewer Auth. v. Little Ferry, 7 N.J. Super. 213
(App. Div. 1950). Suffice it to note for present purposes that it owns 155 acres located within the Hackensack Meadowlands District, and since 1951 it has operated on part of its property a sanitary sewage treatment plant presently serving 43 Bergen County municipalities. The Authority has commenced construction of an addition to its plant at an estimated cost of $53,000,000. Prior thereto it submitted to and obtained approval of plans for the addition from the Department of Environmental Protection as well as federal agencies.
The Commission is also a public corporation established pursuant to legislation (N.J.S.A. 13:17-1 et seq.) whose purposes and functions have been judicially noted. See Meadowlands Reg. Redevelopment Agency v. State, 112 N.J. Super. 89 (Ch. Div. 1970), aff'd 63 N.J. 35 (1973). On November 8, 1972 the Commission adopted a master plan for the Hackensack Meadowlands District. The lands owned by the Authority were zoned partly in a "public utilities" zone (which permits sewage treatment plants) and partly in a "park and recreation" zone. The existing Authority treatment plant as well as the lands upon which the addition is being constructed are in the public utilities zone.
Prior to commencement of construction of the addition the Commission advised the Authority that Commission approval would be required. On April 26, 1974 the Authority submitted plans to the Commission "without prejudice" to any claim the Authority might have that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over the Authority. After this action was commenced by the Authority the Commission issued the Authority a building permit and zoning certificate authorizing the latter to proceed with the construction subject to certain conditions. Construction activities are now underway, but the Authority has failed to comply with the conditions attached to the permit and the Commission seeks injunctive relief against the alleged violations.
This action was originally commenced by the Authority for declaratory relief that (1) it was not subject to the Commission's land use and building regulations, and (2) the Commission's master plan is invalid insofar as it has designated a portion of the Authority's lands for park and recreation use. The latter issue is not before the court at this time and disposition thereof will be reserved for hearing at a later date. However, it is now imperative that the first issue be decided in view of the inability of these two public bodies to reach an accommodation of what they deem to be their respective interests.
In establishing the Commission the Legislature declared that the lands comprising the Hackensack Meadowlands District require
To assure the coordinated development of the district, the Legislature delegated to the Commission extensive powers designed to transcend traditional municipal and county lines and home rule powers. To that end the Commission was empowered to prepare, adopt and implement a master plan "for the physical development of all lands lying within the district." N.J.S.A. 13:17-6(i) (emphasis added). Land within the district owned by the Authority was not exempted from the master plan; indeed, no land within the district was exempted from the reach of the master plan to be formulated by the Commission.
Moreover, the Commission was authorized, among other things, to include in the master plan provisions for "* * * utilities, sewerage and other like matters * * *." N.J.S.A. 13:17-11(a)(2). To resolve the issue of the ...