Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 27, 2020

NJ Superior Court Affirms Denial of Open Public Meetings Act Claim

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

The case arose from a hearing of the Edison Township Zoning Board of Adjustment to consider the development application filed by Markim Developers, LLC, which sought a use and various bulk variances to construct two, four-family residential buildings, as well as preliminary and final site plan approval. The Board approved the application, and, at its April 30, 2019 meeting, adopted a resolution reflecting its approval. Plaintiff, Edison Board of Education (“BOE”), filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs. The Law Division judge rendered an oral opinion dismissing the complaint with prejudice. 

At the outset, the court noted that the BOE’s generalized claim of harm caused by the possibility of students being added to an already overcrowded school district was insufficient to make the BOE an “interested party,” entitled to litigate its claim under the Municipal Land Use Law (“MLUL”). 

As to the BOE’s allegation that the April 30 meeting violated the Open Public Meetings Act (“OPMA”), the record reflected that the Board’s acting secretary’s certification included a copy of the February 2019 published annual notice of the Board’s anticipated meetings in 2019. The notice included “regular” and “special” meetings, and the April 30 meeting was listed as a special meeting. Therefore, the court found the Board did not violate the OPMA by failing to provide public notice of the meeting’s agenda at least forty-eight-hours in advance, because the Board provided adequate notice of the April 30 meeting pursuant to N.J.S.A. 10:4-18. Additionally, there was nothing in the record that supported a conclusion that the Board’s use of an annual notice that included regular and special meetings was “a subterfuge to permit it to act without adequate public notice”, or that the omission of the memorializing resolution from the posted agenda “was intentional and … designed to deceive the public.” Accordingly, the Law Division’s holding was affirmed. 

Edison Board of Education v Zoning Board of Adjustment of the Township of Edison, 2020 WL 419696 (NJ App. 7/22/2020)

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