Appellate panel upholds property appraisal decision in OPRA case

Entering the Borough of Mantoloking. FILE PHOTOP

MANTOLOKING — The borough is not required to provide draft property appraisals for oceanfront properties subject to the ongoing beach replenishment project, according to an Appellate Court decision.

In December 2015, the plaintiff, Bay Head-Mantoloking Land Company, filed a lawsuit against the borough, Borough Clerk Beverly Konopada as well as the state Department of Environmental Protection after an OPRA request seeking appraisals for nine properties to be included in the beach replenishment project — which stretches from Berkeley Township to Point Pleasant — was denied.

The lawsuit sought to order the borough to provide the plaintiff with the nine appraisals it sought.

Argued before Appellate Court judges Jack Sabatino, Amy O’Connor and Mary Gibbons Whipple on Aug. 1, the court upheld Judge Marlene Lynch Ford’s 2016 decision, which stated the appraisals were considered part of the pre-decisional and deliberative process related to the acquisition of the property; that the documents were drafts and not to be considered final; and that the appraisals were part of attorney-client privilege, according to the appellate decision dated Aug. 14.

“Having fully considered the parties’ arguments, we affirm the trial court’s rejection of plaintiff’s access to claims, substantially for the reasons soundly expressed in Judge Ford’s April 8, 2016 bench opinion,” the decision reads.

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