Section: Applicant notification to dispute charges; appeals; rules, regulations
3. a. An applicant shall notify in writing the governing body with copies to the chief financial officer, the approving authority and the professional whenever the applicant disputes the charges made by a professional for service rendered to the municipality in reviewing applications for development, review and preparation of documents, inspection of improvements, or other charges made pursuant to the provisions of P.L.1975, c.291 (C.40:55D-1 et seq.). The governing body , or its designee, shall within a reasonable time period attempt to remediate any disputed charges. If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the applicant, the applicant may appeal to the county construction board of appeals established under section 9 of P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-127) any charge to an escrow account or a deposit by any municipal professional or consultant, or the cost of the installation of improvements estimated by the municipal engineer pursuant to section 15 of P.L.1991, c.256 (C.40:55D-53.4). An applicant or his authorized agent shall submit the appeal in writing to the county construction board of appeals. The applicant or his authorized agent shall simultaneously send a copy of the appeal to the municipality, approving authority, and any professional whose charge is the subject of the appeal. An applicant shall file an appeal within 45 days from receipt of the informational copy of the professional's voucher required by subsection c. of section 13 of P.L.1991, c.256 (C.40:55D-53.2), except that if the professional has not supplied the applicant with an informational copy of the voucher, then the applicant shall file his appeal within 60 days from receipt of the municipal statement of activity against the deposit or escrow account required by subsection c. of section 13 of P.L.1991, c.256 (C.40:55D-53.2). An applicant may file an appeal for an ongoing series of charges by a professional during a period not exceeding six months to demonstrate that they represent a pattern of excessive or inaccurate charges. An applicant making use of this provision need not appeal each charge individually.
b. The county construction board of appeals shall hear the appeal, render a decision thereon, and file its decision with a statement of the reasons therefor with the municipality or approving authority not later than 10 business days following the submission of the appeal, unless such period of time has been extended with the consent of the applicant. The decision may approve, disapprove, or modify the professional charges appealed from. A copy of the decision shall be forwarded by certified or registered mail to the party making the appeal, the municipality, the approving authority, and the professional involved in the appeal. Failure by the board to hear an appeal and render and file a decision thereon within the time limits prescribed in this subsection shall be deemed a denial of the appeal for purposes of a complaint, application, or appeal to a court of competent jurisdiction.
c. The county construction board of appeals shall provide rules for its procedure in accordance with this section. The board shall have the power to administer oaths and issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant evidence, and the provisions of the "County and Municipal Investigations Law," P.L.1953, c.38 (C.2A:67A-1 et seq.) shall apply.
d. During the pendency of any appeal, the municipality or approving authority shall continue to process, hear, and decide the application for development, and to inspect the development in the normal course, and shall not withhold, delay, or deny reviews, inspections, signing of subdivision plats or site plans, the reduction or the release of performance or maintenance guarantees, the issuance of construction permits or certificates of occupancy, or any other approval or permit because an appeal has been filed or is pending under this section. The chief financial officer of the municipality may pay charges out of the appropriate escrow account or deposit for which an appeal has been filed. If a charge is disallowed after payment, the chief financial officer of the municipality shall reimburse the deposit or escrow account in the amount of any such disallowed charge or refund the amount to the applicant. If a charge is disallowed after payment to a professional or consultant who is not an employee of the municipality, the professional or consultant shall reimburse the municipality in the amount of any such disallowed charge.
e. The Commissioner of Community Affairs shall promulgate rules and regulations pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to effectuate the purposes of this section. Within two years of the effective date of P.L.1995, c.54 (C.40:55D-53.2a et al.), the commissioner shall prepare and submit a report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the General Assembly. The report shall describe the appeals process established by section 3 of P.L.1995, c.54 (C.40:55D-53.2a) and shall make recommendations for legislative or administrative action necessary to provide a fair and efficient appeals process.
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