Long Branch residents to get day in court

Long Branch residents to get day in court

Thursday August 07, 2008   Star-Ledger

Residents of a neighborhood slated to be razed for an oceanfront redevelopment project in Long Branch get a chance to convince a judge their homes are not blighted under a ruling issued this morning by a state Appellate panel.

The appeals court upheld a number of actions of the city, including its right to delegate its eminent domain authority to the developer, but said Long Branch failed to show the homes condemned for an oceanfront redevelopment project in the city were considered blighted.

The condominiums loom above a boarded up home on Marine Terrace in Long Branch in this photo taken in May.

The court required Superior Court Assignment Judge Lawrence M. Lawson in Freehold to hold a hearing on whether the more than a dozen properties on Marine Terrace, Ocean Terrace and Seaview Avenue in Long Branch are considered blighted, a prerequisite for the use of eminent domain in taking private property for redevelopment.

In 2006, Lawson upheld the city's right to take the parcels for a second phase of beachfront condominiums. Today, the appellate court said the city didn't show any evidence that the parcels meet the definition of blight.

William Ward, attorney for one of the homeowners, said he was pleased with the decision and said it is the first step in getting the condemnation overturned.

"The city as a practical matter is not going to be able to prove blight and I doubt they'll be able to find a planning expert who will say there is blight,'' he said.

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