New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation with a strong tradition of local autonomy. Because of this tendency toward “home rule,” obtaining necessary government permission for the development of real estate property can be an intricate and time-consuming process, with numerous approvals required at several levels. The attorneys at Schiller & Pittenger, P.C., have significant experience in assisting clients in this process.
Whether the client is seeking to build a deck or an addition to a single-family house, to subdivide a tract of land or to erect a commercial building, numerous approvals may be necessary at the municipal, county and state level, sometimes in the face of official and public hostility. Depending on the development proposed and the attitude of the municipality, this can be a daunting task. An experienced land use attorney is a valuable part of the team of professionals the client will need to obtain these approvals.
Legal Representation Backed by Experience
Our attorneys have represented many clients, from individual homeowners to large corporations, in the processing of applications before planning boards and boards of adjustment for various land use approvals, including variances, subdivisions, and site plans, together with ancillary approvals required from other agencies, such as county planning boards, soil conservation districts and state agencies. In doing so we work closely with engineers, architects and other professionals retained by the client to prepare the development plans, conduct studies into such areas as traffic, wetlands and soil permeability or to provide other necessary testimony.
The application process includes the completion of the appropriate application form and the submission of the various plans, reports and other items required by the agency’s checklist. These approvals may (and at the local level will) require a public hearing, often with formal notice provided to neighbors and the general public, and the application presented through the sworn testimony of fact and expert witnesses. Not only must the concerns of board members be addressed, but there will often be objectors whose concerns must be addressed and either accommodated or countered.
At times we have represented our clients in litigation regarding the approval, either appealing from a denial by the local agency or defending an approval against an appeal filed by an objector. Our attorneys’ extensive experience has also enabled them to represent clients in response to applications for the development of property that can negatively affect the clients. This representation can seek to prevent the proposed development or to obtain sufficient changes to it to mitigate negative impacts. Litigation appealing from a development approval may also be an option.
Our attorneys also represent (or have represented) local boards hearing development applications. In these cases, our legal team advises the boards regarding their legal duties, prepares resolutions memorializing their actions, and defends their decisions in the event of an appeal.