George M. Morris

Their image stigmatized by the development of the infamous exclusionary zoning decisions4 that bear its name, Mount Laurel Township (“Township”) has long struggled to define its own course in land development. The Township’s power to control the future of its own development was first restricted in the 1970s through judicial activism with the mandating of planned unit developments (“PUD”). Mount Laurel’s lack of early success in the courts to determine its own future through controlled growth continues to sour the now suburban landscape of this southern New Jersey town. As the Township entered into a judgment of repose with the parties of the Mount Laurel decisions in 1997, the Township, with new financial incentive from the State of New Jersey and the County of Burlington, ventured on a new course of self determination by attempting to preserve as much remaining land as possible. This attempt at a new future has landed Mount Laurel back in the courts After purchasing several parcels for preservation purposes, the Township attempted to use the power of eminent domain to preserve a sixteen and a half acre parcel for open space. The developer, who had preliminary approval for a residential subdivision challenged the condemnation in the courts by arguing that the public purpose of the Township’s condemnation efforts was not preservation but rather a pretext for other bad faith reasons including reducing residential development and stabilizing the tax rate. While the Township argued that these results were simply additional benefits of the preservation of land, the developer was victorious in court. The Township now appeals that erroneous decision. View More