TRENTON, N.J. - The State of New Jersey may maintain its strong authority over the purchasing of farmland as a result of a Monday ruling in an appellate court.
The office of Attorney General Stuart Rabner represented the state's Agriculture Development Committee in the case, filed by Bruce Paparone, Inc., and decided in the Superior Court's Appellate Division.
"This is a significant victory for the State of New Jersey, and an affirmation of our legal position that the state has the right of first refusal to purchase and preserve critical farmland in our state," Rabner said.
It was the first ruling that said a farmland enrolled in the state's eight-year preservation program could not be sold for development if the state made an offer substantially similar to that of the developer.
Bruce Paparone, Inc., was attempting to purchase a 120-acre parcel of farmland in Gloceste County with the intention of turning the land into 72 houses.
However, the land's previous owner, Edward Sturgis, had enrolled the land in the state's eight-year preservation program in 1997 and had received a $25,000 grant from the state to install an irrigation system.
Under the terms of the eight-year agreement, the state had the right to purchase the property when Sturgis notified it of the pending sale.
Paparone said the state's offer came after the agreement expired, and a trial court agreed. However, the Appellate Division decided that the offer was proper, and that any delay in the timing of it was caused by the failure of the developer and property owner to give the state notice, Rabner said.
Deputy Attorney General William Schnurr worked the case, which is now remanded to the trial court, for Rabner.