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Ohad Associates, LLC, A New Jersey Limited Liability Company v. Township of Marlboro

January 28, 2011

OHAD ASSOCIATES, LLC, A NEW JERSEY LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF MARLBORO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION AND CORPORATE BODY, THE MAYOR AND TOWN COUNCIL OF THE TOWNSHIP OF MARLBORO, AND TOWNSHIP OF MARLBORO PLANNING BOARD DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION & ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter has come before the Court upon Defendants Township of Marlboro, the Mayor and Town Council of the Township of Marlboro, and Township of Marlboro Planning Board's (collectively, "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss [docket # 18]. Plaintiff Ohad Associates, LLC, opposes the motion [27]. The Court has decided the motion upon the submissions of both parties and without oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted.

II. BACKGROUND*fn1

Plaintiff is a real estate developer that seeks to build a residential housing development on its 48-acre parcel located in Marlboro Township. In 1985, the Township was subjected to a Consent Judgment requiring affordable housing to be built. (Compl. 12) [1]. The Township subsequently attempted to have its compliance plan certified by the Council on Affordable Housing ("COAH").*fn2 (Id. at 15.) In June 2003, the Township's Planning Board denied Ohad's development application on the ground that it sought too many variances. (Id. at 20--21.) The Township again filed with COAH in July 2004 an Affordable Housing Plan for which it requested substantive certification. (Id. at 23.) Ohad (and other developers) objected, and what ensued was a series of mediations and settlements that ultimately broke down in late 2009, leading to the filing of the present lawsuit on March 30, 2010. On September 8, 2010, COAH issued an opinion dismissing the Township from its jurisdiction. (McCloskey Certification II Ex. A, at 24) [27-2].*fn3

Plaintiff initially alleged state law claims based on the Mt. Laurel doctrine and promissory estoppel, and federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on the Rough Proportionality doctrine (Count III), the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count IV), the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Count V), and the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment (Count VI) [1-1]. Defendants removed this case to federal court based on subject-matter jurisdiction over the federal claims [1]. Plaintiff moved to remand back to state court on May 28, 2010 [4]. After opposing that motion, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint [16, 17, 18]. We stayed the Motion to Dismiss pending our decision on the Motion to Remand, which we ultimately granted solely with respect to Plaintiff's Mt. Laurel and promissory estoppel claims [24]. We now consider Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the remaining counts.

III. ANALYSIS

A.Standard of Review on Motion to Dismiss

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). A district court must accept as true all of a plaintiff's factual allegations, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim that is facially plausible. Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Facial plausibility exists where the facts pled allow the court reasonably to infer that "the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 193). Facts suggesting the "mere possibility of misconduct" fail to show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 195).

B.Ripeness

Ripeness is a constitutional and prudential doctrine requiring federal courts to abstain from hearing a dispute unless and until there is a "real, substantial controversy between parties" and the dispute is "definite and concrete." Peachlum v. City of York, 333 F.3d 429, 433--34 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Babbitt v. United Farm Workers Nat'l Union, 442 U.S. 289, 298 (1979)). Here, the Defendants argue that Plaintiff's Takings, Due Process, and Equal Protection claims fail for lack of ripeness. We agree and therefore grant the Motion to Dismiss.

1.Takings and Rough Proportionality Claims Are Not Ripe

Plaintiff's Takings claims*fn4 must be dismissed because they are not ripe for adjudication. The ripeness of a Takings claim is evaluated using a two-pronged approach set forth by the Supreme Court in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172, 186, 194--95 (1985). First, a court must apply the finality rule, which requires that "the government entity charged with implementing the regulations has reached a final decision regarding the application of the regulations to the property at issue." Id. at 186. This finality rule governs only as-applied claims, not facial challenges to ordinances where a plaintiff alleges "that the mere enactment of a regulation" constitutes a taking. Cnty. Concrete Corp. v. Twp. of Roxbury, 442 F.3d 159, 164--65 (3d Cir. 2006). Second, "if a State provides an adequate procedure for seeking just compensation, the property owner cannot claim a ...


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