Lee Hoagland, et al. v. City of Long Branch, decided October 11, 2012.
Subsequent to the City of Long Branch having abandoned its condemnation actions for redevelopment purposes and having paid the property owners’ litigation expenses, certain property owners who had not released their claims in condemnation actions filed inverse condemnation claims alleging temporary takings of their properties by the City. The matters were consolidated, and the trial court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaints, and the Appellate Division affirmed.
The plaintiffs alleged temporary takings of their properties from the time of the filing of the condemnation actions in 2005 and 2006, up to the settlement of the condemnation litigations in 2009.
The Court addressed the plaintiffs’ claims as follows:
- In condemnation, the filing of the complaint does not constitute a taking; rather the condemnor has to file and record and serve a declaration of taking to effect a taking, which the City did not do.
- The plaintiffs misconstrued the prior ruling of the trial court as concluding that a taking had occurred, when the ruling was instead that the City had the right to exercise its power of eminent domain.
- Plaintiffs’ claim of property value loss and of the inability to mortgage, develop or sell their properties lacked any factual support. To the contrary, the evidence indicated that a plaintiff estate was able to sell its property. As a matter of law, loss of land value or impairment of marketability do not constitute a taking, even as a result of a blight declaration. Further, the City took no action to prevent plaintiffs from improving their properties. The Court concluded that the City did not substantially destroy the beneficial use of the properties and therefore there were no temporary takings.