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Judge Dismisses Hillsborough Properties Suit

Complaint against Hillsborough Township dismissed by New Jersey Superior Court.

State Superior Court Judge Peter A. Buchsbaum dismissed Hillsborough Properties LLC.’s case against the township that challenged the zoning designation where its property is located.

The case involves a 308-acre piece of property owned by Hillsborough Properties that is adjacent to a 369-acre piece of land owned by the Somerset County Improvement Authority and . Both pieces of land were originally part of the General Services Administration Depot before being purchased by the respective owners.

The existing zoning prevents Hillsborough Properties from doing anything with its land, it contended in its suit. It is in the Economic Development Zone, where allowed uses include office parks, corporate offices and limited retail offerings, according to Township Planner Robert Ringelheim. Meanwhile, the land owned by Somerset County and Hillsborough Township is slated for a park or other recreational area.

But the case’s focus on the lack of interest for the permitted uses and lack of access to major highways to attract them was the sticking point in the ruling.

“Much of the plaintiff’s case depends on the alleged lack of market for the zoned use,” Judge Buchsbaum wrote in his ruling. “This argument requires a far higher degree of proof than was elicited here. Ordinances cannot be valid one day when the market is good and then suddenly become invalid when the market turns sour. ... In this case, the plaintiff has simply failed to show that the zoning is irrational and non-implementable given the justifications offered for it.”

However, Buchsbaum’s judgment requires the township to drop its minimum lot size in its Economic Development Zone—where Hillsborough Properties land is located— from a 50-acre minimum to a 25-acre minimum.

“For the reasons stated above, the complaint insofar as it attacks the concept of the ED zoning is dismissed,” Buchsbaum wrote in his judgment. “To the extent that the plaintiff has specifically challenged the 50-acre minimum, the Court will enter a judgment for the plaintiff on that one issue and order revision of the ordinance to take place within 90 days.”

The Township Committee introduced that ordinance, 2012-08, after an executive session at Tuesday night’s meeting. It will undergo a public hearing on March 13.

A spokesman for Hillsborough Properties declined to comment on the ruling. 

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