HIGHLANDS, NJ – In a unanimous decision issued March 14, 2011, the New Jersey Appellate Division ruled that a controversial Highlands ordinance, which rezoned a small area of land to permit high-rise development, is invalid. In December of 2007, despite staunch opposition from neighboring property owners, the Highlands Borough Council enacted Ordinance O-07-07 which authorized a high-rise, high-density residential development at the current site of the Shadow Lawn Mobile Home Park, which adjoins the Eastpointe condominium complex. The invalidation of the ordinance has dealt a serious blow to Highlander Development Group, LLC, whose 17-month long application before the Highland Planning Board to build three ambitious 16-story complexes in the zone had been approved. R. Armen McOmber, an attorney who practices with the firm of McOmber & McOmber, P.C. in Red Bank, successfully argued the appeal on behalf of a neighboring property owner.
The Appellate Division ruled the rezoning ordinance was invalid because the Borough Council “largely ignored” the findings and recommendations of the Planning Board when making its decision and that this “willful disregard” is contrary to New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law. The Appellate Division refused to allow the Borough Council to remedy its misstep stating: “Moreover, we believe that a remand to the governing body would be futile – a vain effort to backfill the missing acknowledgment, and we decline to order a do-over.”
“Thankfully, there are public minded citizens who when they believe that a municipality has done something wrong, are willing to step forward and challenge the actions of the municipality,” McOmber said. “In this case, Mrs. Jennings was successful. We were delighted to represent her throughout the entire proceedings and believe that ultimately the decision of the Appellate Division was right on point.”
Pauline Jennings, the Plaintiff in the matter, stated that “I am very happy that justice prevailed and that my position that the Borough Council erred in rushing through the adoption of the Ordinance was fully vindicated by the Appellate Division.”