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St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church v. City of Vineland

July 15, 2008

ST. PAUL'S MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF VINELAND, AS THE GOVERNING BODY AND THE REDEVELOPMENT ENTITY, AND CITY OF VINELAND PLANNING BOARD AND VINELAND MINISTERIAL FELLOWSHIP, INC., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND CUMBERLAND EMPOWERMENT ZONE CORP., DEFENDANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, Docket No. L-1120-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted February 25, 2008

Before Judges Sabatino and Alvarez.

This is an appeal by plaintiff, St. Paul's Missionary Baptist Church, from a final judgment dismissing a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs which sought to invalidate an amendment to a redevelopment plan promulgated by defendant, City of Vineland (the City). The amendment authorized the construction of a homeless shelter, within an area known as West Vineland Village (WVV), by defendant, Vineland Ministerial Fellowship (VMF), a religious consortium designated as the redeveloper. The City of Vineland Planning Board (the Board), and the Cumberland Empowerment Zone Corporation, were also named defendants. The latter was previously dismissed as not being a necessary party to resolution of the claims made. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand to the City's governing body for further consideration of the proposed plan amendment.

It is undisputed that the 1992 Vineland Master Plan, which was "re-examined" in 1998 and 2000, stated that the City needed to "[p]rovide the long-term homeless with temporary shelters." It did not designate a geographic area, however, where such shelters should be located.

On April 20, 2004, the City adopted Resolution Number 5203, which, among other things, designated WVV as including owner-occupied townhouses and multi-family residences. A homeless shelter, or similar facility, is not a permitted use within the WVV zone. In May 2004, the City adopted Ordinance 2004-25, which established the redevelopment plan. Thereafter, VMF proposed that a forty-eight-bed homeless shelter be constructed on an abandoned factory site in WVV. On February 8, 2005, VMF was designated as the redeveloper for the project.

In accord with the statutory procedure for amendment to a redevelopment plan, the City sought recommendations from the Board. N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-7(e). In response, the Board adopted Resolution 5328 on April 13, 2005. It states that although the 1992 Master Plan acknowledged the City's homeless problem, and recognized the need to provide housing to address the homeless problem, it did not specify the area in which housing for the homeless should be constructed. The resolution concludes:

Since there is no guidance within the Master Plan as to location for this type of use, the proposal would be neither consistent nor inconsistent with the Master Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Planning Board raised concerns with locating such a facility on Lot 6 Block 424 adjacent to an existing school located adjacent to the site raising concerns.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Planning Board of the City of Vineland reviewed the proposed amendment to the Center City Redevelopment Plan as described above and determined that the proposed amendment would be neither consistent nor inconsistent with the Master Plan of the City of Vineland.

After receiving the Board's resolution, the City held two public meetings regarding construction of the homeless shelter in WVV. Both were well attended. On September 13, 2005, the City adopted Ordinance 2005-68 amending the redevelopment plan to allow for development of the project.

The City imposed conditions on the project, including that the homeless shelter would model itself after the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, be staffed with well-trained personnel, be staffed with around-the-clock security, refuse admission to persons under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and maintain ample staff at the shelter at all times, "to assure the health and safety of the citizens within the City of Vineland while providing the appropriate service to the homeless."

Plaintiff challenged the validity of the September 2005 ordinance by way of a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs. After oral argument, on April 16, 2007, the trial court found in favor of ...


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