The Asbury Park Press reported yesterday that the State Supreme Court reversed a jury award of $4.5 million to a farm owner. According to his counsel, the Town took the property to prevent its development. The farmer had been seeking to sell the property for housing development which the Township opposed. The Town thought it would be a good property for the Township to own for recreational expansion. This certainly is not a condemnation for a public purpose. Taking property to stop its development is not a lawful taking. A possible future recreational use is pure bull.
But that’s all past. The property was condemned and his decision involved the “just compensation” the farmer was entitled to.
When the Township acquired title, the Superior Court assigned a Board of Commissioners to determine the fair value. The Board found a value of $3.6 million and the Township appealed the award claiming a value of $2.83 million. That prompted a jury trial which increased the award to $4.5 million.
On appeal, a key issue was the reasonable probability of rezoning. The property currently zoned for residential and “environmental,” whatever that is?
According to Anthony DellaPelle, partner of the remarkable law firm of McKirdy Riskin Olson DellePelle and a fellow member of Owner’s Counsel of America for the State of New Jersey, the owner did not present its appraisal testimony but still got a verdict exceeding the Town’s appraisal. According to Mr. DellaPelle, the Town appealed alleging that the trial judge should not have allowed Claimant to argue or cross examine Town experts on the basis of different highest and best use and because Judge made no preliminary finding that the other use(s) could probably be achieved because variances were required.
So the jury verdict of $4.5 was reversed as a “miscarriage of justice.”