As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly affect all aspects of the real estate industry, the legislature of the State of New Jersey has passed amendments to the Municipal Land Use Law (the “MLUL”), codified at N.J.S.A. 40D:55-1, et. seq. The amendments contained in Assembly Bill A-3919 (the “Law”) will have a significant effect on pending real estate projects, both those that have received land use approvals and those with pending applications before municipal land use boards.
The Law defines the “COVID-19 extension period” as the period beginning March 9, 2020 and continuing as long as the public health emergency declared by Governor Murphy in response to COVID-19 remains in effect. For “any government approval in existence on March 9, 2020”, the Law suspends the running of the period of approval during the COVID-19 extension period. The suspension applies to any of the State, county or municipal approvals listed in the Law. The tolling extends “at least six months beyond the conclusion of the COVID-19 extension period.” Nothing in the Law shall be construed to reduce the time period of any approval in existence as of March 9, 2020.
For real estate projects with pending applications for development, the amendments to the MLUL will enlarge the time for a municipality to deem an application for development complete. The 45-day review period as set forth in N.J.S.A. 40:55D-10.3 will be extended to the later of 120 days after March 9, 2020 or 60 days after the date the application for development was filed with the municipal agency, whichever date is later. These enlarged time periods will apply to any application for development that was awaiting certification of completeness by a municipality as of March 9, 2020 or filed during the COVID-19 extension period.
In addition, the Law amends the MLUL to enlarge the time period in which a planning board or zoning board of adjustment has to act on an application for development. The time of decision period is extended for 120 days. This enlargement applies to all applications that were awaiting certification of completeness by the municipal agency as of March 9, 2020 and those applications pending before a planning board or zoning board of adjustment as of March 9, 2020. For applications submitted during the COVID-19 extension period, a municipal agency must either grant or deny any application for development under N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1 either 120 days after March 9, 2020 or 60 days after the application is certified complete by the municipal agency, whichever is later.