Part 3: The third article in this series of the approaching Eminent Domain for the River Styx area is designed to help you understand the process and what to expect each step along the way, and more importantly, what are the deadlines if you wish to contest the process at any point.
(Special Thanks to William J. Ward from Carlin & Ward, who as an expert in this area, and agreed to be interviewed for this article. See the Company information at the bottom of the article)
Background on River Styx Project:
As discussed in the first two articles, the Hopatcong Borough Council is moving forward in their long-term plan that started back in 1996 to revitalize the River Styx area. This plan is designed to increase overall property values, and gain additional Contractor Investments within the Hopatcong area. It may also make Hopatcong eligible for additional Federal & State grants.
Phase 1: The Process towards Eminent Domain:
Eminent Domain is covered by Local Redevelopment Housing Law, which requires the following steps to take place before Eminent Domain is declared:
- Redevelopment Study/Report
- Analysis of Property
- Resolution of Land Use Board
- Resolution of Borough Council
a. Resolution of Borough Council passed
b. Hopatcong Borough now has the power of Eminent Domain
Note: We are currently at the second stage of this process, so now is the time to become informed and get involved.
Important: If you are a property owner in this area, you will have only 45 days from the adoption of the resolution (4.a) to file an action contesting the validity of the resolution.
Phase 2: The Redevelopment Process
Once Eminent Domain is declared, the Redevelopment Process starts, which is where the Hopatcong Borough will seek a Developer(s), who under contract will handle the steps and the costs of moving forward. This includes:
- The Condemnation Process
- The Acquisition Process
- The Engineering Studies
- The Appraisal Process (for Fair Market Value)
Under the Eminent Domain act, the property owner is entitled to the following:
- Fair market value determined by highest and best use (comparable to homes within that area)
- Relocation assistance, to help move you within a 50 mile radius normally about $4,000 – $5,000
- And potentially a supplemental housing bonus, if the value of your home is less than what can be acquired for a similar home in the new area.
Optional: Process for contesting Fair Market Value
There are two steps available to you if have a dispute on what is the Fair Market value of your home.
Step 1: An Assignment Judge in Morris County will appoint 3 commissioners (Normally: Two lawyers and one Real Estate Broker). Who will hear your case, and help determine the fair real estate value based upon the testimony of the Developer and the Property owner.
If you are still dissatisfied you can appeal within 20 days, and move to Step 2.
Step 2: Superior Court trial before a Judge, or a Jury if you select
So as you can see, we are still in the early stages of this process. If you live within the River Styx area, or feel strongly in either direction. Now is the time to become informed and involved. Watch for our Fourth Article on this subject, where we review what the River Styx project could mean to Hopatcong if it is implemented successfully.
About Carlin & Ward, Attorneys at Law
Carlin & Ward specializes in Eminent Domain cases, led by William J. Ward who has over 40 years’ experience for this subject matter in New Jersey.
Carlin & Ward, P.C.
P.O. Box 751
25A Vreeland Road
Florham Park, NJ 07932