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Quarry Hills Development Corp. v. New Jersey Department of Transportation

Decided: June 30, 1993.

QUARRY HILLS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION AND JERRY PECARO, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, UNION COUNTY AND SPRINGFIELD TWP., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Union County.

King, Brody and Landau. The opinion of the court was delivered by Landau, J.A.D.

Landau

[267 NJSuper Page 3] This appeal followed dismissal of a several-pronged complaint initiated in the Law Division, Union County, by plaintiffs Quarry Hills Development Corporation (Quarry Hills) and its sole shareholder, Jerry Pecaro, against the New Jersey Department of Transportation (D.O.T.), the County of Union (County) and Springfield Township (Township).

The complaint asserts that D.O.T. acquired 165 acres of land in the Township owned by Houdaille Industries, Inc., for $8,000,000, principally funded by the United States Department of Transportation, and that Houdaille had agreed with Quarry Hills to exercise its first refusal right to repurchase from D.O.T. ninety-four acres of its former property no longer required for construction or maintenance of Route 78, and then to convey the tract to Quarry Hills. The complaint further states that D.O.T.'s pre-acquisition planning called for return of approximately ninety acres of the quarry tract to private ownership upon completion of the highway, but that D.O.T. instead had leased part of the tract to Union County for leaf composting purposes at $1 per year and appeared ready to sell the remaining area to the County for a nominal consideration or to place the property up for public auction.

The complaint goes on to assert in effect that Quarry Hills wishes to exercise its rights to acquire the property in order to develop low and moderate income housing, and that use of the tract for Union County's proposed purposes is inconsistent with the Township's unmet fair share Mount Laurel*fn1 obligation of 300 units, which purportedly cannot be achieved without use of the quarry land. Thus, Quarry Hills complains, D.O.T.'s refusal to consider its Mount Laurel development scheme, as to all or part of the 94 acres, is arbitrary and inconsistent with accomplishment of Mount Laurel constitutional goals.

The complaint also alleges that the Township's land use ordinance is unconstitutional because it makes no provision to meet its fair share obligation for low and middle income housing; that Union County's decision to acquire the property is arbitrary and in conflict with " Mt. Laurel principles"; and that a ninety-nine year lease between D.O.T. and the County would "violate both N.J.S.A. 27:12-1 and Federal law."

Relief was requested:

1. Declaring that the refusal of the Department of Transportation to consider and provide for sale of this property to Houdaille to satisfy the Mt. Laurel obligation is arbitrary and capricious;

2. Directing the Department of Transportation to convey the property to Houdaille and plaintiff pursuant to N.J.S.A. 27:12-1 at fair market value for use as an inclusionary housing development;

3. Declaring the zoning ordinance of Springfield Township unconstitutional for failure to comply with the principles of Mount Laurel II and provide a realistic opportunity for Springfield's fair share of low and moderate income housing;

4. Declaring that the entry into this agreement by the County of Union is arbitrary, capricious and contrary to the principles of Mount Laurel I and II;

5. Declaring that execution of a 99 year lease for one dollar a year is violative of N.J.S.A. 27:12-1 and federal ...


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