On appeal from a Final Agency Decision by the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, Docket No. OCA-326-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner, Yannotti and Chambers.
Petitioner Jeanny Sung Koo, appeals from a January 16, 2009 final decision of the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (Commissioner), denying her application for relocation assistance pursuant to the Relocation Assistance Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 20:4-1 to -22. We affirm.
This case was decided on a motion for summary disposition submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL). We begin by reviewing the pertinent evidence submitted on that motion. Pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1 to -49, respondent Township of Bloomfield, New Jersey (township) adopted a resolution on December 12, 2000, declaring the "Bloomfield Center" to be an "area in need of redevelopment," and resolving to act as the redevelopment entity. Bloomfield Center encompassed approximately sixty-seven properties over 13.5 acres of land. On October 14, 2003, the township adopted the Bloomfield Center Redevelopment Plan through ordinance No.03-42.
Petitioner Jeanny Sung Koo owned a multi-tenant commercial building located at 318-322 Glenwood Avenue, which was within the area designated for redevelopment. Koo operated a salon in a portion of the property, and leased the remaining commercial space to a trophy business, Crown Trophy.
On February 5, 2004, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) approved the township's workable relocation assistance plan. The approval gave the township "the right to conduct displacement through acquisition activities" between January 2004 and December 2005, and obligated it to provide relocation assistance in accordance with the Act. The township entered into a redevelopment agreement (the Agreement) with Forest City Bloomfield, L.L.C. and Forest City Bloomfield Urban Renewal (collectively Forest City) on February 19, 2004. The Agreement reiterated the township's resolution to act as the "redevelopment entity" and designated Forest City as the redeveloper.
On October 1, 2004, Koo entered into a five-year lease for commercial space in Hoboken, New Jersey. However, she did not immediately begin relocating her business into the space, as the relocation site required renovations and permits before her business could begin operating there.
Thereafter, the township sent Koo a "notice of eligibility for relocation assistance" dated January 21, 2005, formally notifying her of the redevelopment plans but informing her that she was not required to vacate the premises at that time:
Because implementation of this [redevelopment] project will require that your business be moved from the above referenced property... the Township is required to inform you that you may be eligible for relocation benefits pursuant to New Jersey Relocation Assistance Act, N.J.S.A. 20:4-1 et seq.
The Township intends to take possession of the Property on or about May 15, 2005. However, you are not required to move right now. This letter is not a notice to vacate the premises. You should continue to pay your monthly rent to your landlord, because failure to pay rent and meet your other obligations as a tenant may be cause for eviction and loss of relocation assistance.
A similar "notice of eligibility for relocation assistance" was sent to Crown Trophy, Koo's tenant.
In a separate letter to Koo's attorney, also dated January 21, 2005, the township offered to purchase Koo's property for $450,000, based upon the value of an attached appraisal. The offer was to remain open for fourteen days and was subject to an environmental reservation. The letter also referenced the township's ability to acquire property by eminent domain, but stated that the township "would prefer to negotiate with you for the purchase of the property." The letter stated that "[i]n the event we ...