The New Jersey Senate and Assembly recently passed a bill (S-58: A-437) that overrides the “time of decision rule,” which has governed decision making under the Municipal Land Use Law for decades.
Under current law, a planning board or zoning board of adjustment applies the law in effect at the time it renders its decision, rather than the law in effect when the issues were initially presented. A municipal governing body can amend its zoning ordinance after an application for development has been filed with a land use board, even in direct response to the application, and the land use board decides the matter based upon the amended ordinance.
Under the new bill, a land use board would be required to make its decision on an application for development in accordance with the development regulations (zoning ordinance, subdivision ordinance, site plan ordinance, official map ordinance or other municipal regulation of the use and development of land) that are in effect on the date the application for development is submitted. The bill also exempts an application for development from changes made to ordinances other than development regulations, except for those relating to health and public safety, that are adopted after the application for development is submitted. While effectively prohibiting municipalities from responding to an application for development by changing the law to frustrate that application, the bill recognizes that ordinance changes necessary for the protection of health and public safety would apply to pending applications.
The bill is heading to the Governor’s desk and will take effect one year following enactment.