Local Planning Boards and Zoning Boards of Adjustment to Conduct Business as Usual During the COVID-19 Crisis Says the NJDCA – Virtually or Telephonically

Last updated April 3, 2020

On April 2, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”) issued guidance to local land use boards to ensure land development does not cease in light of New Jersey’s Executive Orders declaring a public health emergency and directing residents to remain home during the COVID-19 crisis.

In short, DCA has advised that the statutory time periods set forth within the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 et seq. for boards to act remain in place. To address the need for social distancing, DCA has pronounced that the boards have many options to facilitate meetings virtually and/or telephonically.

To lead land use practitioners and the interested public through this new process, DCA recommends and directs the following:

Filing of Plans and Application Materials. Local boards should consider accepting and posting application materials electronically for public viewing and providing hard copies to members of the public upon request.

Hearing Notice. Notice of a public hearing must provide web-access information for the hearing and call-in information for those that do not have internet access. The notice should also provide a website where the application materials may be viewed. The notice should further advise that individuals lacking the resources or the know-how to view web materials/meetings should contact the board secretary for information on accessing same.

Meeting Format, Exhibits and Public Participation. Video conferencing is the most appropriate format to conduct meetings. All hearing exhibits of the applicant must be posted for viewing by the board and public not less than two (2) days prior to the meeting date. The ability to comment on an application and cross-examine witnesses must be afforded to the public. There should, however, be a reasonable limit placed on public comment for each individual. Lastly, members of the public should advise the board chair in advance of the hearing of their intent to cross-examine witnesses to ensure proper coordination of technologies.

DCA’s guidelines may be read in full here.

For additional information pertaining to the coronavirus outbreak, please visit CSG’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

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