A bill that would clarify the use of eminent domain by a municipality was approved the New Jersey General Assembly on Monday.
The bill, sponsored by Assembly Republicans Anthony M. Bucco and Nancy F. Muñoz also "amends the due process provisions of the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) that fall within the area of eminent domain," according to a release from the New Jersey Assembly Republicans.
Long Branch has been criticized in the past for its use of eminent domain in condeming some homes and buildings in redevelopment areas of the city.
According to the release, the bill says a municipality may "use and invoke eminent domain if an area is determined to be in need of redevelopment and after the municipality follows established criteria in making such a determination."
The bill says a town may offer long-term tax abatements to developers "regardless of whether or not eminent domain was needed in order to undertake the redevelopment project."
“Offering long-term tax abatements to developers in areas that need investment and improvement will be a useful tool that creates jobs and helps jump-start a town’s local economy," Bucco said in a release. "Eminent domain can be an emotional topic for property owners. This bill clarifies an area of law that often ends up in litigation.”
The city settled a 5-year eminent domain legal dispute last year after the city had looked to seize 36 homes near Beachfront North. The city ultimately agreed not to use eminent domain to seize the homes.
According to the release, the bill also explains the notification requirements and rights of property owners if a town determines an area to be a focus of redevelopment and authorizes the taking of property by condemnation.
"The new provisions require property owners within such an area to be advised of the municipality’s intention of whether it will use or not use eminent domain at the outset," the release states. "Unless a municipality properly notifies owners, the LRHL will not authorize the use of eminent domain.
“This bill addresses a town’s obligation to inform property owners of its redevelopment intentions in a timely manner, hopefully reduces the need for the use of eminent domain, and provides incentives that foster economic growth and create jobs," Munoz said in the release.