Ocean County Assignment Judge Vincent Grasso dismissed a declaratory judgment action filed by a redeveloper against the Township of Ocean finding that the redeveloper had to exhaust its administrative remedies before coming to the Court for relief. Alternatively, it appears that the redeveloper was seeking to partially invalidate or revise an ordinance that had been adopted two and half years earlier. Obviously, out of time. See Del Corp. Enterprises I, LLC v. Township of Ocean (Oct. 9, 2014, opinion here)
The redeveloper, Del Corp., was working with the Township in connection with the designation of tract of land as “in need of redevelopment” under the Local Redevelopment & Housing Law (NJSA 40A:12A-1 et seq). Once designated, the redevelopment plan would call for a residential housing development called the Tradewinds at Waretown consisting of 115 market rate units and 29 affordable units. The project received site plan approval from the planning board in 2011, subject to the Township enacting an ordinance adopting a redevelopment plan. Said ordinance was adopted in February of 2012, and provided “[o]f the 144 dwelling units, 115 units are to be for-sale condominium units and 29 units are to be affordable rental units.” Del Corp did not object to the Ordinance.
Two years later, Del Corp. has contracted to sell the project to a third-party. However, the third-party will not finalize the transaction with the “for sale” requirement contained in the ordinance. The third-party wants to be free to sell or rent the market units. Hence, Del Corp’s declaratory judgment action, which the Court found premature:
“Del Corp’s brief states “[i]f the terms of the ordinance are enforced by the Township and the developer is not permitted to rent out the market rate units, the contract purchaser will terminate the contract.” Because Del Corp has not demonstrated that it has applied to build apartment units contrary to the Redevelopment Plan and the Township is enforcing the terms of the Ordinance, the court concludes that Del Corp seeks a declaratory judgment here to discern the rights upon facts that are “future, contingent, and uncertain.” (Slip op. at 7).
Even if it were ripe, the Court found that Del Corp had not exhausted its administrative remedies, namely asking the Township to amend the redevelopment plan to exclude the “for sale” requirement. If aggrieved by the outcome, Del Corp would then be able to seek redress before the Courts.