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Bonnabel v. Township of River Vale

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 27, 2013

HENRY J. BONNABEL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF RIVER VALE, a Municipal Corporation of the State of New Jersey, County of Bergen, and the MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE TOWNSHIP OF RIVER VALE, Defendants-Respondents.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued March 18, 2013.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-10406-10.

Antimo A. Del Vecchio argued the cause for appellant (Beattie Padovano, L.L.C., attorneys; Mr. Del Vecchio, of counsel; Daniel L. Steinhagen, on the brief).

Silvana D. Raso argued the cause for respondents (Schepisi & McLaughlin, P.A., attorneys; Ms. Raso and Michael T. Caulfield, on the brief).

Before Judges Graves and Ashrafi.

PER CURIAM.

In this appeal, plaintiff Henry Bonnabel challenges the validity of the 2010 fair share ordinance adopted by the Township of River Vale to meet its Mount Laurel[1] housing obligations.

Plaintiff is the owner of a tract of land that was not included in the Township's "Third Round Housing Element and Fair Share Plan." He filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs to invalidate the Township's fair share ordinance adopted in two parts in April and May 2010. At the prerogative writs trial held on March 2, 2012, the parties entered stipulations of fact. By written decision dated April 2, 2012, and an order dated April 19, 2012, the trial court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Plaintiff now appeals that decision.

Having reviewed the record, we affirm essentially for the reasons stated in the written decision of Judge Joseph Conte. We provide here a summary of the relevant facts and a brief discussion to highlight the issues and the basis of our decision.

On April 12, 2010, defendant Township introduced Ordinance 231-2010 ("the first ordinance"), a fair share ordinance required by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) when it granted substantive certification of the Township's Mount Laurel plan on March 10, 2010.[2] COAH's conditional certification required that the Township enact the fair share ordinance COAH had previously approved in draft form within forty-five days and that the Township also enter into developers' agreements for the two properties included in its housing plan. The Township's planner, Michael Kauker, had drafted the first ordinance and submitted it for review by Township and COAH officials in August 2009. The mayor and members of the Township Council had reviewed Kauker's 2009 draft and were aware of its contents.

On April 16, 2010, the Township published a legal notice in the Ridgewood News stating the date, time, and place of the public hearing for consideration of the fair share ordinance. However, the notice only quoted the title and section 1 of the ordinance. Additionally, the notice did not inform the public that a copy of the complete ordinance could be obtained, without cost, before the time of the hearing.

The Township held a public hearing on April 26, 2010. Plaintiff did not speak at the hearing, and apparently did not attend. The Township Council passed the ordinance. But the copy of the first ordinance as presented at the public hearing was incomplete because of a printing error. It comprised only sections 1 through 7 and the first paragraph of section 8. It did not contain the remainder of section 8 or any part of sections 9 through 20 of the draft ordinance. The mayor and council members did not have a full copy of the ordinance in the agenda packets prepared for them before the meeting. At the hearing, no one pointed out the printing error, and the mayor signed the incomplete version of the ordinance on April 27, 2010. The next day, a revised agenda was placed on the Township's website with a complete version of the ordinance.

On April 30, 2010, plaintiff filed a builder's remedy lawsuit against the Township, see Bonnabel v. Twp. of River Vale, No. A-3643-10 (App. Div. Dec. 21, 2011), one of three actions he pursued in an effort to have his ...


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