Category: Development/Redevelopment

Gibbons Environmental Director David J. Freeman: “A ‘Bridge Builder’ Whose Vision Came to Fruition,” Featured in New York City Brownfield Partnership Interview

In June 2021, Gibbons Director David J. Freeman received the Distinguished Service Award from the New York City Brownfield Partnership, an organization he co-founded. Further honoring David for his extensive contributions to environmental law and the development of brownfields policy, the Partnership published an engaging and wide-ranging interview of David. In the interview, David describes how the Partnership’s goal of creating a bridge between the private sector and the Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation, which David developed with his co-founder, Dr. Daniel Walsh, grew over 15 years to include pro bono work, internships, and scholarships. The Partnership’s contributions to shaping brownfields law helped vitalize the Brownfield Opportunity Area initiative with its focus on neighborhood revitalization and community outreach. With the current focus at the federal and state levels on environmental justice for disadvantaged communities, the Brownfield Opportunity Area initiative has taken on an even more critical role.

NJDEP Unveils Resiliency Planning Toolkit

On February 2, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed P.L. 2021 c. 6, which requires municipalities to incorporate assessments of climate change hazards into Master Plan Land Use Elements adopted after its enactment. No doubt many municipal officials, faced with tight budgets and heavy obligations, greeted this news with trepidation. However, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has come to the rescue with an extensive and well-designed online toolkit. The launch of the toolkit was announced by NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette on June 10 at the New Jersey Planning and Redevelopment Conference. The toolkit provides detailed guidance to assist communities in developing and implementing public processes to assess local vulnerabilities and create strategies to address them. It provides step-by-step procedures for creating teams to engage local stakeholders in defining their vision and developing plans to gather data, assess vulnerabilities, and develop strategies. Each section of the toolkit provides useful training modules, prototype documents and templates, and links to critical informational resources. The final section assists in tracking progress and contains links to federal and state sites providing information on funding and financing options. The toolkit is comprehensive, flexible, and user-friendly. It will be invaluable to municipalities in meeting their statutory obligations. It also provides a valuable model for other states, regional planning agencies, and...

Gibbons Director David J. Freeman Receives Distinguished Service Award From New York City Brownfield Partnership

David J. Freeman, a Director in the Environmental Group of Gibbons P.C., has been honored by the New York City Brownfield Partnership (NYCBP) as the 2021 recipient of the organization’s Distinguished Service Award. The Award promotes excellence in brownfield redevelopment each year by honoring an individual who has made a significant impact on brownfield redevelopment in New York City.

New York Appellate Court Allows Top Floors of Upper West Side Condo Building to Remain

The New York City development community was alarmed by a trial court decision in February of last year that would have required removal of the top floors of a 55-story condominium building under construction at 200 Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. On appeal, the Appellate Division, First Department, issued a decision in early March reversing the trial court, which means that, absent any further appeal, the building can be completed and the condominium units offered for sale. The case, In the Matter of Committee for Environmentally Sound Development v. Amsterdam Avenue Redevelopment Associates LLC, 2021 NY Slip Op. 01228 (“Amsterdam Avenue”), serves as a high-profile, high-stakes reminder of the importance of two well-settled principles of New York zoning law: Administrative agencies like planning and zoning boards, which are charged with administering technical regulations with which they have substantial experience and technical expertise, are entitled to substantial deference and cannot disregard past precedent without good reason, such as differences in facts or changed circumstances; A party seeking to overturn a permit or approval must avail itself of all opportunities to seek a stay that halts construction or risk having its case dismissed as moot, and a developer seeking to defeat an appeal can do so by taking the risk of diligently proceeding...

NJ’s New Economic Incentive Legislation Includes Supplement to Brownfields Program

The New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 (NJERA), recently signed into law by Governor Murphy, includes an important new tax incentive for Brownfields called the “Brownfields Redevelopment Incentive Program Act” (BRIPA),  included as Sections 9 through 19 in the act. BRIPA supplements the existing “Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act” (BCSRA), which provides funds for reimbursement of varying components of remediation costs at Brownfield sites based on certain eligibility criteria, including the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund and the Brownfield Site Reimbursement Fund. Under BRIPA, as under BCSRA, a “Brownfield site” is any commercial or industrial site that is “vacant or underutilized and on which there has been, or there is suspected to have been, a discharge of a contaminant.” BRIPA further expands the definition of Brownfield sites to include sites where there is or suspected to be contaminated building materials. BRIPA takes an approach similar to that of the New York Brownfields Cleanup Program by awarding tax credits of up to the lesser of 40 percent of remediation costs or $4 million under redevelopment agreements entered into by the state and a developer. There is a cumulative cap of $50 million that can be awarded annually under BRIPA. Projects that are eligible for tax credits under BRIPA are those that are located at...

CREMA Provides the Framework for the Regulated Recreational Cannabis Industry in New Jersey, but Disincentivizes Businesses From Seeking to Achieve Certain Legislative Goals

In November 2020, New Jersey voters passed the referendum to add an amendment to the State Constitution for the legalization of recreational cannabis by a resounding margin of 2 to 1. The amendment went into effect as of January 1, 2021; however, implementation and the establishment of the legal recreational cannabis market requires further legislative and regulatory action. As the first step in this process, the State Assembly and Senate each passed the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREMA”). CREMA is the result of tireless legislative negotiation that began well before the November 2020 vote. The end result includes provisions aimed at public policy and social justice considerations, and at creating a competitive business marketplace. For example, under CREMA, the Legislature takes effort to address the disproportionate negative impacts that cannabis prohibition has had on Black New Jerseyans and other minority communities. With the goal of promoting social equity and redressing the historical impact of unequal application of drug laws on minority communities, CREMA provides priority for license applications to businesses located in “impact zones,” which are defined as municipalities that have a population of 120,000 or more or that rank in the top 40 percent for cannabis-related arrests, and mandates that at least 70 percent of tax revenue on...

NJDEP Posts List of Approvals Extended by Permit Extension Act of 2020

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), in its function as the repository for registering approval extensions under the Permit Extension Act of 2020 (“PEA2020”), codified at N.J.S.A. 40:55D-136.7, has posted the list of approvals which were registered by the October 8, 2020 deadline. There are actually two separate lists available from NJDEP, one consisting of permits issued by the NJDEP, and the other consisting of approvals issued by all other agencies. The second list encompasses a broad array of approvals including municipal and county planning board approvals, health department approvals, highway access permits, road opening permits, redevelopment agreements, soil conservation district certification, and a host of others. Both lists provide the name of the permittee, permitting agency, type of permit, and permit number. They are searchable by keyword. It appears that these lists are only inclusive of the approvals that have been granted extensions, and developers and permitted parties should review them carefully to confirm whether their approvals have been included. As reported previously, PEA2020 authorizes the extension of a wide variety of approvals, including, but not limited to, soil conservation district approvals, waterfront development permits, wetlands permits, CAFRA permits and center designations, septic approvals, municipal utility authority approvals, county and municipal planning board approvals, and a host of other municipal, county, regional,...

Permit Extensions: Looming Deadline and Best Practices

The period within which to register development approvals for tolling or extension under the Permit Extension Act of 2020 (“Act”) concludes on October 8, 2020. Permits and approvals which are not timely registered by that date may expire without receiving the benefit of tolling afforded by the Act. We have detailed both the Permit Extension Act of 2020 and the recently published notices from various state agencies on our website. While the language of the Act as adopted, and the accompanying notices from the various state agencies, are not fully consistent with respect to what approvals are required to be registered, we wanted to pass along two key suggestions regarding how to best take advantage of the Act: Register All Approvals. We suggest to err on the side of registering all approvals – this means not only State agency permits, but also municipal land use approvals, agreements for sewerage capacity, water permits, construction permits, plan endorsements under the State Planning Act, and any approval for permits related to any development application. While the statutory language seemed to suggest that it was only state level permitting that would be subject to registration, it appears that NJDEP will be serving as a database and repository for all approvals – not just those of state agencies – and...

Permits to Be Extended Under Permit Extension Act of 2020 Must Be Registered by October 8, 2020

We previously reported on the adoption of the Permit Extension Act of 2020, which provided a mechanism for tolling or extension of permits and approvals during the public health emergency associated with COVID-19, and extending those approvals for “at least six months beyond the conclusion” of the associated extension period. Under the Permit Extension Act of 2020, all approvals that are subject to tolling or extension were required to be registered “with the department” within 30 days of the publication of a notice in the New Jersey Register. That registration deadline has now been established as October 8, 2020. Regardless of whether your permit or approval expires in the next few months or late next year, it may be prudent to register now, particularly given the differences between the prior iterations of the Permit Extension Act and the present statutory language, and the lack of a clear end of the present public health emergency. The Department of Environmental Protection published a notice in the New Jersey Register on September 8, 2020, announcing that the registration period for approvals has begun. Notably, the notice provides that “[t]his registration requirement applies to specified permits, approvals, and deadlines from a broad range of State and local entities – not just the Department.” It is not clear under the...

Permit Extension Act of 2020 Alters Timing for Applications for Development, and Extends Certain Existing Approvals During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

On July 1, 2020, Governor Murphy signed the Permit Extension Act of 2020, enacted as P.L. 2020, c. 53, a stand-alone piece of legislation modifying timelines for review of applications for development before the land use boards of the State of New Jersey and tolling existing development approvals that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. This legislation ends a saga that saw the proposal of an amendment to the Permit Extension Act of 2008, which was enacted following the Great Recession; a conditional veto of that legislation; and the concurrence of both houses of the New Jersey legislature with the language of the conditional veto message. This new law will provide significant help to developers throughout New Jersey who were forced, whether by governmental order or economic infeasibility, to put projects on hold during the course of the present public health emergency. However, there are potential pitfalls of which developers should be aware, as set forth below, including a requirement that all state-level permits that developers wish to have extended be registered. The Permit Extension Act of 2020 provides as follows: Scope: Much like the original Permit Extension Act, this law serves to extend a wide variety of permits, including, but not limited to, soil conservation district approvals, waterfront development permits,...