Cinnaminson business owner wins court fight to keep her properties

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A property must not only appear in poor condition to be deemed blighted; it must also significantly harm the community. This, from the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, which ruled in favor of Thao Le.

The court reversed the eminent domain order by Cinnaminson Township, which sought to seize two parcels of her land located off Route 130, south of Highland Avenue.

For more than a year, the township has been trying to take control of the parcels next door to her cabinetry business to aid in building a Chick-Fil-A restaurant and small plaza.

Tom Juliano, CEO of project developer Delco Development, said securing Le’s properties was “pretty vital,” indicating that the project needed to move forward within the next year. Juliano did not return calls for comment on the court decision. A sign advertising leasing opportunities with the project has since been removed.

“I feel great,” Le said of the court decision. “I feel very pleased, very excited, and very blessed with the decision from the appellate court.”

That sentiment was echoed by her lawyer, Richard DeAngelis Jr. of the firm Connell Foley LLP, who said the lower court’s decision “was contrary to settled law by the New Jersey Supreme Court.”

DeAngelis is referring to a state Supreme Court decision from earlier this year involving a public library in West Orange. The court ruled that the site of the library was wrongly designated by that township as an area in need of redevelopment under the state’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, after resident Kevin Malanga challenged the designation.

“The record did not establish that [the library] suffered from obsolescence, faulty arrangement, or obsolete layout in a way that harmed the welfare of the community,” the decision stated. “The township argued that even though the library actively provided services to the residents of West Orange, it could have better served the public if it had more programming and computers, among other things. ‘That laudable concept, by itself, does not satisfy the standards in the LRHL.’”

The Appellate Division heard arguments on Nov. 15 and issued its decision on Dec. 4 citing the Malanga case.

“Malanga may have been about a library, but the legal standard articulated by the Court applies equally here. And the trial judge misapplied that standard,” the court found, adding “the township’s determination was not supported by substantial evidence.”

  • December 21, 2023
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