No concept under the Municipal Land Use Law (“MLUL”) is misunderstood more than “completeness.” Many applicants are bewildered and frustrated when they learn their application will not be heard because it is “incomplete.” After reading this article, you will hopefully better understand this important first step in the land development process in New Jersey.
Every municipality has ordinances that set forth the requirements you must follow when filing any land use application, whether you need a site plan approval or use variance relief. The requirements are then reflected in the application itself and the checklists that accompany the application. The requirements include, but are in no way limited to, how to calculate the filing fees, the details to be drawn on the engineering plans and the number of copies to be submitted.
The “completeness” determination involves a review of the application, the plans and reports filed for the particular application to confirm that the applicant has satisfied the filing requirements and all of the needed information is available. If so, the application is considered complete. If the application is found to be incomplete, a written report is generally issued identifying the missing items and affording the applicant an opportunity to submit additional information or documentation. No hearing will be scheduled until the application has been deemed “complete”.
An applicant may ask the board to waive any requirement if it believes that the information is not critical to the board's decision-making process. However, if the board rejects the waiver request, the application will not be deemed “complete” until the applicant satisfactorily addresses the requirement. Further, once the application is deemed “complete”, the board is not prohibited from seeking additional information from the applicant during the public hearing.
The completeness determination must be made within 45 days of the application being submitted. It can be made by the board itself or someone it designates such as its engineer or attorney. If the Board does not act on the “completeness” issue within 45 days of the application being filed, the application is automatically deemed complete, although it must still be heard and decided by the board before the applicant can proceed with his development proposal.
If you are preparing an application and are wondering if it will be deemed complete or whether you may be entitled to any waivers, please contact the attorneys at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis & Cohen, P.C. They have dealt with the question of completeness on hundreds of applications and will provide you with sound advice which should ensure that your applications deemed complete as quickly as possible.