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BLOOMFIELD, NJ-The US Supreme Court may have ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that it’s okay for cities to use eminent domain to pave the way for redevelopment, but Essex County Judge Patricia K. Costello has tossed out a condemnation case filed by the Township of Bloomfield against 110 Washington Street Associates. It was the first such case filed by the township in its effort to redevelop its Downtown.

That redevelopment plan involves Forest City Ratner and Toll Brothers. Their proposal includes 650 residential condos, some 65,000 sf of retail space including a supermarket and a parking deck. Both declined to comment.

That plan was dealt a legal setback last week, however, when Judge Costello ruled that the site was improperly designated as blighted. “The record in this case is devoid of any finding that the property is detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare,” she wrote.

Judge Claude M. Coleman had previously dismissed two suits in Lieu of Prerogative Writ brought by 110 Washington Street and its companion case, Alessandro Lardieri et al v. Township of Bloomfield. The court then granted the township’s motion to consolidate both cases. “It is unlikely now, given the ruling, that the township will file any additional condemnation complaints for the project which would include the properties owned by the plaintiffs in the companion case,” says William J. Ward, principal of Carlin and Ward, Florham Park, NJ. Ward and partner James M. Turteltaub argued the case for Lardieri et al.

According to njeminentdomain.com, the case has some implications for the major redevelopment, including an arena/mixed development that Forest City Ratner’s Bruce Ratner has in mind for Brooklyn, NY. “If Forest City Ratner and the Empire State Development Corp. try to make similar blight findings in Brooklyn, we are sure they will meet the same fate they have in Bloomfield, NJ,” says Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, a community coalition in that borough’s Prospect Heights section. “Clearly, the lack of a planning process for the Ratner proposal in Brooklyn is a fatal flaw, as it was in Bloomfield,” he adds.

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