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Brick Hoping to Stave Off ‘Builder’s Remedy’ Lawsuits

The Brick Township municipal complex. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick Township municipal complex. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick and other communities throughout New Jersey were successful in petitioning the state Supreme Court to grant a five month window so they could prepare affordable housing plans in compliance with the state’s so-called Mount Laurel Doctrine.

“We are hoping to receive an order of immunity brought against the township,” Brick Township Council President Paul Mummolo said this week.

Under a controversial decision stemming from a case that originated in Mount Laurel Township, the state Supreme Court mandated New Jersey municipalities affirmative apply their zoning ordinances to provide for affordable housing as set by a state formula based on income and family size. If a municipality is not in compliance with the formula, real estate developers can sue for the right to build often high-density housing complexes in towns where they otherwise would not be allowed under local zoning laws.

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Thursday’s court ruling allows municipalities, including Brick, five months to develop plans to come into compliance with the latest round of affordable housing obligations.

Generally, municipalities try to avoid having to allow for dense housing complexes due to issues that range from crime concerns to the potential overcrowding of schools. Environmentalists often cite fears that over development can lead to more runoff being dumped into waterways and wildlife losing habitat. Advocates of the ruling say the poor have a right to live in any municipality and need affordable places to live in one of the nation’s most expensive states.

The five month deadline to file plans is of the utmost importance, one of the state’s most vocal environmental advocates said Thursday.

“If they file, they cannot be sued by builders and their attorneys,” said Jeff Tittel, of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. “In the past, developers have used builder remedy lawsuits to target environmentally sensitive lands and open spaces. Towns that do not file are playing Russian Roulette with their communities’ future.”

Brick officials have said they do not expect to have any issues developing their compliance plan, as they have in the past. The township has retained renowned Mount Laurel doctrine attorney Jeffrey R. Surenian, of Brielle, as its affordable housing counsel.

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