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Abstract

In 1958, the City of Trenton examined the possibility of redeveloping a large portion of its downtown area. In 1967, after a tortuous planning process, the land designated for redevelopment was declared blighted. Plaintiff, the owner of a large commercial building in this redevelopment area, alleged that in 1963 it began losing tenants because of the widespread publicity given to the threatened condemnation. After the 1967 declaration of blight, the area deteriorated markedly. By 1973, plaintiff’s building was almost entirely vacant, yielding $6,300 in rent compared to costs of $9,500 in insurance changes and $30,000 in annual property taxes. Plaintiff sought an order requiring the defendant to condemn its property, or alternatively to pay damages for the diminished value of the property. The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that plaintiff alleged a cause of action despite the absence of a direct taking by the defendant. The New Jersey Supreme Court realized the inconsistency in recognizing diminution in market value after condemnation and denying it absent acquisition of the properties by the government. The court fails, however, to hold unequivocally that blight declarations regardless of duration will support a cause of action under the taking provision of the state constitution. The erosion of the traditional notions of the “taking” doctrine that such a holding might create may be easily obviated by the adoption of a provision in the New Jersey Constitution allowing recovery not only for a governmental taking but also for property damage caused by a governmental body without a taking.

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