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Riggs v. Long Beach

Supreme Court of New Jersey

September 14, 1987 Argued ; March 23, 1988, Decided

No. A-9

Opinion

 [*603]  [**809]   The dispositive issue in this case, which is before us for the second time, is whether the Township of Long Beach enacted the challenged zoning ordinance for a valid purpose. Originally, the Law Division held in 1983 that the ordinance (81-1C) was "undeniably unreasonable and arbitrary and hence void as unconstitutional." In an unreported opinion in 1984, the Appellate Division reversed and remanded because the enactment of a later ordinance (83-9C), which was passed to correct procedural  [*604]  defects pertaining to the [***2]  enactment of ordinance 81-1C, rendered moot the challenge to that ordinance. Because the later ordinance was identical to the original ordinance, we reversed and remanded the matter to the Appellate Division for reconsideration. 101 N.J. 515 (1986). On remand, the Appellate Division found, among other things, that ordinance 83-9C had a valid zoning purpose and again reversed the judgment of the Law Division. 212 N.J. Super. 69 (1986). We granted certification, 107 N.J. 81 (1987), and now find that ordinance 83-9C, like ordinance 81-1C, does not have such a purpose. We find further that the sole purpose of the two ordinances was to reduce the value of the Riggs property so that the municipality could acquire it below fair market value. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Appellate Division and remand the matter to the Law Division for the entry of an order declaring invalid ordinance 83-9C.

The relevant facts are that in 1976 the voters of Long Beach Township approved a referendum for the acquisition of "public open-space" property. At that time, appellants, Charles J. Riggs; Virginia Riggs, his wife; and [***3]  their corporation, Island Homes, Inc. (collectively Riggs), owned the property in question, which is located between Long Beach Boulevard and Little Egg Harbor. Then, as now, the property, known generally as Block 0-19, Lot 1 on the township tax map, was unimproved. The property was zoned R-50, which allowed residential lots of five thousand square feet, with a minimum width of fifty feet. Consistent with these requirements, Riggs prepared an application in 1977 to subdivide the property into four lots.

In a letter dated December 14, 1977, the township attorney advised Riggs that the proposed subdivision would not be approved because the Township, in light of the 1976 referendum, intended to acquire the property. The letter informed Riggs that the property would be appraised within thirty days,  [*605]  and if the Township could not acquire the property through contract, it would take the property through the exercise of eminent domain.

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109 N.J. 601 *; 538 A.2d 808 **; 1988 N.J. LEXIS 22 ***

CHARLES J. RIGGS, VIRGINIA RIGGS, HIS WIFE; AND ISLAND HOMES, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS, v. TOWNSHIP OF LONG BEACH, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT

Prior History:  [***1]  On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 212 N.J. Super. 69 (1986).

CORE TERMS

ordinance, Township, zoning, master plan, municipality, zoning ordinance, open space, planning, invalid, municipal land, open-space, Use Law, acquisition of property, residential, acquire, condemnation proceeding, comprehensive plan, residential use, governing body, designated, zoning power, land use, condemnation, density, fair market value, use regulation, negotiations, acquisition, subdivision, minutes

Environmental Law, Land Use & Zoning, Constitutional Limits, Real Property Law, Zoning, General Overview, Equitable & Statutory Limits, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Comprehensive Plans, Ordinances, Regional & State Planning, Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Governments, Legislation, Elements, Just Compensation, Property Valuation, Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Eminent Domain Proceedings, Local Governments, Ordinances & Regulations, Transfer Not By Deed, Dedication, Procedure