On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Docket No. L-331-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Axelrad, Sapp-Peterson and Ostrer.
Plaintiff Frank Fulbrook appeals from an order of the Law Division dismissing with prejudice count three of his complaint that alleged an incompatibility in the roles of two members of the Camden Redevelopment Agency that rendered invalid Camden City Council's passage of an ordinance amending the Gateway Redevelopment Plan. We affirm.
On January 19, 2010, plaintiff filed a prerogative writs complaint against defendants, City of Camden (the City), Camden City Planning Board (the Board), Camden Redevelopment Agency (the CRA), Saundra Ross Johnson (in her official capacities as the City's Director of Development and Planning and the CRA's Executive Director) (Johnson), Theodore Z. Davis (in his official capacities as the City's Chief Operating Officer and Chairman of the CRA) and Campbell Soup Company (Campbell Soup). The suit challenged the validity of Ordinance MC-4508, amending the Gateway Redevelopment Plan, that the Camden City Council (Council) adopted on November 10, 2009. Defendants filed responsive pleadings.
Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on July 9, 2010, containing seven counts. Defendants filed responsive pleadings. On September 16, 2010, Judge Francis J. Orlando, Jr. granted defendants' cross-motion for partial summary judgment, dismissing the fifth and sixth counts of plaintiff's complaint that alleged the CRA lacked standing to apply for a certificate of appropriateness and the Camden City Historic Preservation Commission and the Board lacked jurisdiction to hear the application for the certificate of appropriateness.
Following the submission of trial briefs and oral argument, Judge Orlando issued an oral opinion on February 8, 20ll, dismissing the remaining counts of plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. The decision was memorialized in an order of the same date. Plaintiff appealed, challenging only the dismissal of the third count. According to plaintiff, Davis and Johnson "had a legally untenable conflict of offices, which tainted the entire ordinance adoption process."
We provide brief historic information and recitation of the facts only to the extent they are pertinent to the issues on appeal. This appeal involves an amendment to the Gateway Redevelopment Plan that enabled the historic Sears Building in Camden to be acquired by eminent domain and potentially demolished. The Gateway area is situated in Camden between Admiral Wilson Boulevard, Interstate 676, and the Cooper River. It includes the Sears Building, which served as a department store until l971, and then housed several other enterprises until the building became vacant in early 2007.
On April 27, 2006, Council adopted a Redevelopment Plan for the Gateway area for a proposed office park. Under the Plan and consistent with the statutory framework, the CRA was responsible for implementing the redevelopment. See N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-11.1. The Redevelopment Plan contained three property classifications: "to be acquired," "may be acquired," and "not to be acquired;" properties in the first two categories were subject to acquisition through eminent domain without amendment to the Redevelopment Plan. The Sears Building, located on Block 1463, Lot l was placed on the "not to be acquired" list.
On February 6, 2007, a multi-party project development agreement was signed in furtherance of the Redevelopment Plan. The agreement named Campbell Soup as the flagship tenant with a proposed 80,000 plus square foot employee services building, and provided for infrastructure improvements from the City, County of Camden, and State of New Jersey. The agreement expressly recognized the Sears Building as "an impediment to the development of the Area into a quality office park." Campbell Soup was subsequently named as the Master Redeveloper of the Gateway Office Park Area.
At Campbell Soup's request, in April 2007, the Board voted in favor of recommending to Council an amendment to the 2006 Redevelopment Plan that, among other things, placed the Sears Building on the "to be acquired" list. Following litigation, in January 2008, the trial court invalidated the Board's recommendation based on a ...