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Kelly v. Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission

Decided: February 11, 1980.


On appeal from the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission.

Lora, Antell and Pressler.

Per Curiam

[172 NJSuper Page 225] These consolidated appeals challenge the action of the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission (HMDC) in rezoning 460 acres of land located in the Hackensack Meadowlands District and lying within the municipal boundaries of Moonachie, South Hackensack and Carlstadt. The statutory history of the creation of the HMDC, an analysis of its purposes and powers, and a determination of the constitutionality of the underlying legislation are matters which were all extensively

addressed in Meadowlands Reg'l Develop. Agency v. State , 112 N.J. Super. 89 (Ch.Div.1970), aff'd 63 N.J. 35 (1973) and need not here be reiterated. Suffice it to say that the Supreme Court has expressly recognized an approved the breadth and validity of the zoning control accorded HMDC by N.J.S.A. 13:17-6(i), which authorizes HMDC

To prepare, adopt and implement a master plan for the physical development of all lands, or a portion thereof, lying within the district; and to adopt and enforce codes and standards for the effectuation of such plan.

And see the implementing regulations, N.J.A.C. 19:4-4.1 et seq.

The original master plan for the development of the district was adopted by HMDC in November 1972. In January 1977 HMDC proposed its first comprehensive set of amendments thereto consisting of 47 proposed changes. These changes reflected a variety of pertinent factors which developed after adoption of the original plan, including substantial changes in the State's tidelands claims, HMDC's plans for a 2000 acre park and the submission of rezoning applications by owners. The 460 acres here in question are owned by Empire Development and Terminal Construction Company (Empire), which sought eight of the 47 zoning changes. Five of these changes were sought for tracts in Carlstadt covering some 420 acres. Two were sought in respect of some 36 acres in South Hackensack, and the final one was sought for some 2 acres in Moonachie. The import of the changes sought was the rezoning for residential and light industrial use of land formerly zoned for marshland preservation, park and recreation, and research development.

Shortly after the amendment process was undertaken by HMDC, South Hackensack applied to it for rezoning of the Empire tracts within its boundaries from marshland preservation to light industrial, its stated reason being its desire for the ratables which might be constructed thereon. In the meantime, HMDC, pursuant to published notice, conducted two public

hearings on the whole amendment package, and at its meeting of June 15, 1977 adopted all of the 47 proposals with the exception of the eight affecting Empire. Consideration of these was deferred both because of public reaction and Empire's request for an opportunity to further study the land and to prepare a development plan. The following January, and before any action had been taken by HMDC in respect of the Empire property, South Hackensack again renewed its application, requesting further that its 36 acres in that municipality not be rezoned for residential use. HMDC assured South Hackensack that its application would be considered as part of the record when a final decision was made. South Hackensack, however, without waiting for a final decision nevertheless appealed from the decision of HMDC to postpone consideration of its January 1978 request. That appeal was brought by five individuals, members of the governing body of South Hackensack, and the borough itself, under the caption Kelly et al. v. Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission. That is the first of the appeals now before us.

In February 1978 Empire filed a rezoning request with HMDC in accordance with its submitted development plan. Following HMDC's independent review of the Empire proposals, a public hearing was convened in June 1978 to consider them. In July 1978 HMDC adopted the eight amendments here in question. Immediately thereafter they were disapproved by the Hackensack Meadowlands Municipal Committee (HMMC).

The HMMC, constituted by N.J.S.A. 13:17-7, is composed of the mayor or elected chief executive officer of each of the district's constituent municipalities. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:17-8, it has the responsibility of reviewing all codes, standards, the master plan and amendments thereto, development and redevelopment plans and improvement plans of HMDC before they become final. N.J.S.A. 13:17-8(c) further provides that if the ...

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