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Blake Gardens, LLC v. State

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 15, 2018

BLAKE GARDENS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D. JUDGE.

         This matter is before this Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 15). The Complaint alleges that the State of New Jersey violated the discrimination provisions of the Federal Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by the State legislature's enactment of Public Law 2015, Chapter 125, approved on November 9, 2015 (2015 Act).[1] That is, Plaintiff seeks the Court to declare “the above mentioned [2015 Act] amendment to the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) to be in “violation of federal anti-discrimination laws” and to “annul the above mentioned [2015 Act] Amendment to the MLUL.” The alleged act of discrimination is described as “removing community residences for people with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia from the list of residences permitted as of right in residential districts throughout the State as a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.” (ECF No. 1, Complaint, ¶27).

         Plaintiff does not identify the precise language of the 2015 Act that it challenges in its Complaint; but upon review, Plaintiff focuses mainly on one part of a far broader law that fundamentally changes the regulation of residences for persons with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Prior to enactment of the 2015 Act, a community residence could be developed for persons with a head injury in a residential zone. After enactment of the 2015 Act, persons with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia disorders no longer fit within said class. The language in question is underscored below:

“Person with head injury” means a person who has sustained an injury, illness, or traumatic changes to the skull, the brain contents or its coverings which results in a temporary or permanent physiobiological decrease of cognitive, behavioral, social, or physical functioning which causes partial or total disability, but excluding a person with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders or other forms of dementia. 2015 Act, Section 10. (emphasis in original).

         A. Narrowing the Issue

         As noted above, the 2015 Act is a comprehensive law that promotes the health and safety of persons with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders, or other forms of dementia. To accomplish this goal, the New Jersey legislature mandated significant new state oversight of such facilities through the Department of Health. The 2015 Act vested the Commissioner of Health with certain authority. The 2015 Act:

1. Transfers responsibility for the oversight of a facility that cares for persons with Alzheimer's disease and related disorders or other forms of dementia from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to the Department of Health (DOH);
2. Empowers the Commissioner of Health to establish standards to ensure that each dementia care home is constructed and operated in such a manner as to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents, and preserve and promote a homelike atmosphere;
3. Authorizes the DOH Commissioner to exercise authority over dementia care homes as it oversees other DOH licensed long term health care facilities;
4. Allows the Commissioner to effectuate DOH's authority in accordance with the Health Care Facilities Planning Act. As such, the facilities and the operators are subject to DOH oversight; and
5. Requires the DOH Commissioner to review facility, architectural and engineering design and management protocols regarding:
a. Safety from fire;
b. Safety from structural, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies;
c. Adequate light and ventilation;
d. Physical security;
e. Protection from harassment, fraud, and eviction without due cause:
f. Clean and reasonably comfortable surroundings;
g. Adequate personal and financial services rendered in the facility;
h. Disclosure of owner identification information;
i. Maintenance of orderly and sufficient financial and occupancy records;
j. Referral of residents, by the operator, to social service and health care providers for needed services;
k. Assurance that no constitutional, civil, or legal right will be denied solely by reason of residence in a dementia care home;
l. Reasonable access for employees of public and private agencies, and reasonable access for other citizens upon receiving the consent of the resident to be visited by them;
m. Opportunity for each resident to live with as much independence, autonomy, and interaction with the surrounding community as the resident is capable of doing; and
n. Assurance that the needs of residents of a dementia care home will be met, which shall include, at a minimum, the following:
(1) staffing levels, which shall ensure that the ratio of direct care staff to residents in the facility is equal to or higher than that which existed on ...

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