Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 26, 2017

NJ Appeals Court Holds Local Government Could not Regulate Zoning With Respect to State University Property

Plaintiff Montclair State University (MSU) appealed from an order dismissing its complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief that sought an order permitting it to proceed with the development of a roadway from its campus to Valley Road in Clifton. Prior to filing the complaint, MSU spent approximately six years consulting with defendants County of Passaic and City of Clifton. In 2014, MSU submitted an application to the County for a permit to install traffic controls at the proposed intersection of the roadway and Valley Road. When the county failed to respond, MSU filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, seeking a determination that the county’s refusal to issue the permit was contrary to law, and directing the permit be issued so MSU could construct the proposed roadway. The trial judge entered an order requiring the parties to submit updated traffic studies and requiring “the parties to consult, which shall include, without limitation, appearances before the Planning Boards of the City of Clifton and the County of Passaic.” Two years later, MSU claimed in the trial court that it had revised its plans to resolve the county’s and Clifton’s concerns regarding safety, that the only area of disagreement was the design of the roadway that was located entirely on MSU’s property, and MSU had sole jurisdiction over the roadway. The judge dismissed MSU’s complaint, finding that the record was insufficient because MSU had not appeared before the County’s or Clifton’s planning boards as previously ordered.

On appeal, the court first noted that the determination of whether a state university has complied with its obligation to consult and consider local concerns was a judicial function not conditioned upon consideration by a local zoning board. It further stated that municipal planning boards lack “standing and jurisdiction over the development project because generally, local zoning and planning regulations cannot affect the State’s authority to carry out public functions for the benefit of all the people of the State, especially on the State’s own land.” As MSU was a state university, the court reversed and remanded, holding the trial judge could rely upon the record in determining whether MSU satisfied its duty to consider those concerns.

Montclair State University v County of Passaic, 2017 WL 3611681 (NJ App. 8/23/2017)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: