New Jersey v. Quaker Valley Farms, LLC

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Justia Opinion Summary

Quaker Valley Farms, LLC (Quaker Valley) owned approximately 120 acres of deed-restricted farmland in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. As part of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program, the State purchased an easement on the property that prohibited any activity on the property that was detrimental to soil conservation, but permitted the construction of new buildings for agricultural purposes. Quaker Valley excavated and leveled twenty acres of the farm previously used for the production of crops, to erect hoop houses (temporary greenhouses) in which it would grow flowers. In the process, Quaker Valley destroyed the land’s prime quality soil. At issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether Quaker Valley’s excavation activities violated its deed of easement and the Agriculture Retention and Development Act (ARDA). The Supreme Court determined Quaker Valley had the right to erect hoop houses, but did not have the authority to permanently damage a wide swath of premier quality soil in doing so. Accordingly, the judgment of the Appellate Division, which overturned the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the State Agriculture Development Committee, was reversed. “Those who own deed-restricted farmland must have well delineated guidelines that will permit them to make informed decisions about the permissible limits of their activities.”

SYLLABUS

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of
the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the
Court. In the interest of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized.)

     State of New Jersey v. Quaker Valley Farms, LLC (A-43/44/45/46-16) (078517)

Argued January 2, 2018 -- Decided August 14, 2018

Albin, J., writing for the Court.

        Quaker Valley Farms, LLC (Quaker Valley) owns approximately 120 acres of deed-
restricted farmland in Hunterdon County. As part of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation
Program, the State purchased an easement on the property that prohibits any activity on the
property that is detrimental to soil conservation, but permits the construction of new
buildings for agricultural purposes. Quaker Valley excavated and leveled twenty acres of the
farm -- previously used for the production of crops -- to erect hoop houses (temporary
greenhouses) in which it would grow flowers. In the process, Quaker Valley destroyed the
land’s prime quality soil. The Court considers whether Quaker Valley’s excavation activities
violated its deed of easement and the Agriculture Retention and Development Act (ARDA),

N.J.S.A. 4:1C-11 to -48.

        Quaker Valley operates a wholesale horticultural business. Since 2001, it has used a
twenty-acre field of prime soil to grow chrysanthemums. In 2007, Quaker Valley suffered a
million-dollar-plus crop loss. To protect against future losses, Quaker Valley planned to
construct heated hoop houses to provide cover for its crops. Unlike a traditional greenhouse,
a hoop house has no concrete footing, and the sloped field presented a topographical problem
because hoop houses are commonly constructed on level ground. As a result, Quaker Valley
altered the elevation of the land, excavated the earth on the field, and leveled the ground.

        The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC), the state agency responsible
for the enforcement of the ARDA, assembled a team of experts to investigate the effects of
Quaker Valley’s project on the agricultural resource value of the farm. The team determined
that Quaker Valley’s excavation violated its deed of easement and the ARDA. The SADC
filed a complaint against Quaker Valley claiming that it permanently damaged prime soil on
twenty acres of the farm, precluding use of the soil for a variety of agricultural uses, and that
it violated both the deed of easement and the ARDA. The SADC sought a judgment halting
Quaker Valley from further degrading the land and proposed the implementation of a
remediation plan. Quaker Valley filed a counterclaim asserting that material terms of the
deed of easement are vague and unenforceable and that the SADC exercised its police
powers to coerce, intimidate, and interfere with Quaker Valley’s property rights in violation
of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act. Quaker Valley also claimed that because the Hunterdon
County Soil Conservation District approved its C.251 Plan to address the storm-water runoff
from the construction of the hoop houses, it had complied with the deed of easement.
                                                1
        The trial court temporarily enjoined Quaker Valley from continuing construction of
the hoop houses. Thereafter, the court entered a preliminary injunction barring earthmoving
operations in violation of the deed of easement and the ARDA. The SADC moved for
summary judgment. Quaker Valley cross-moved for summary judgment on its claims that
the deed was unenforceable and that the SADC had violated the New Jersey Civil Rights
Act. In August 2012, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the SADC and
dismissed Quaker Valley’s civil-rights claim. In June 2013, the court conducted a four-day
trial on remediation. The court ordered Quaker Valley to fill the most disturbed areas with
specific depths of subsoil and topsoil and to recreate the preexisting slopes. The court also
allowed for the maintenance of some hoop houses in the area, provided their presence would
be consistent with the remediation plan. Quaker Valley appealed.

        The Appellate Division initially affirmed, recognizing the tension between the deed of
easement’s soil conservation mandate and its allowance of the construction of agricultural
buildings, but discerning no basis to disturb the court’s decision on the remedy. Quaker
Valley moved for reconsideration, which the Appellate Division granted, reversing its
affirmance of summary judgment in favor of the SADC, affirming the dismissal of the civil-
rights claim, and noting that any judgment on remedy must await a final determination on
whether Quaker Valley is in violation of the deed of easement and ARDA. The appellate
panel remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. The Court granted the petitions for
certification filed by the SADC, Hunterdon County, and Franklin Township, 
229 N.J. 583
(2017); 
229 N.J. 605 (2017); 
229 N.J. 606 (2017), and a cross-petition filed by Quaker
Valley, 
229 N.J. 605 (2017).

HELD: Quaker Valley had the right to erect hoop houses, but did not have the authority to
permanently damage a wide swath of premier quality soil in doing so. Quaker Valley clearly
violated the deed and the ARDA. Accordingly, the judgment of the Appellate Division,
which overturned the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the SADC, is
reversed. Those who own deed-restricted farmland must have well delineated guidelines that
will permit them to make informed decisions about the permissible limits of their activities.
It is only the extreme nature of this case that saves the present enforcement action.

1. The Right to Farm Act established the SADC to promulgate rules and to administer and
enforce the goals of farmland preservation. The SADC is the enforcement arm of the ARDA
and authorizes the establishment of State and county organizations to coordinate the
development of farmland preservation programs. The ARDA permits the purchase of
development easements on farm property, restricting the use of the land solely for
agricultural purposes. (p. 26)

2. The criteria for evaluating an application for a development easement includes factors
such as the size of the property, soil quality, the number of tillable acres, the commitment of
a municipality and county to the long term viability of the agricultural industry, and the
imminence that agricultural land will be converted to a nonagricultural use. Deed restrictions
shall be liberally construed to effectuate the purpose and intent of the ARDA. The SADC
instructs that the easement must be read, and interpreted, in its entirety, so that the
                                              2
interpretation of each individual provision is consistent with the overall intent of the
document and interpretation of all other provisions. The SADC regulation and the deed
advance the dual goals of the ARDA: promotion of the agricultural industry and
preservation of farmland. The deed’s terms must be read reasonably to achieve their aims, so
that one is not sacrificed for another. This task is made difficult by the failure of the SADC
to promulgate regulations to guide farmers on the kind and extent of agricultural activities
that are permissible under the deed. Quaker Valley’s leveling activities in preparation for the
hoop houses led to drastic and permanent alterations to the quality of the soil. While Quaker
Valley had a right to construct hoop houses, it did not have the right to needlessly destroy so
much prime soil. Quaker Valley’s activities plainly violated the ARDA’s goal of preserving
the agricultural productivity of the farmland. The provision authorizing the construction of
new structures does not override all others and cannot be divorced from the deed’s express
prohibition against activities detrimental to soil conservation. (pp. 27-32)

3. The Court finds no merit in Quaker Valley’s argument that their adherence to the C.251
Plan is evidence that their activities were not detrimental to soil conservation. The C.251
Plan did not authorize Quaker Valley to permanently alter the soil profile or to intermix
layers of the topsoil and subsoil and did not authorize the despoiling of large quantities of
prime soil. Although the record indicates that the SADC has considered parameters
regarding soil disturbance on preserved properties, the agency has not exercised its statutory
authority to promulgate any relevant standards regarding the nature and extent of soil
disturbance that is allowable for construction projects. The ARDA and the existing SADC
regulation have a dual purpose: to strengthen the agricultural industry and to preserve
farmland. There is no indication in the history or language of the ARDA or the SADC
regulation that one goal should inevitably supersede the other. Rather, the approach must be
to balance farmland preservation and strengthen the agricultural industry. (pp. 32-35)

4. The most relevant point of uncertainty here involves the construction of new structures for
agricultural purposes -- an activity expressly permitted by the SADC regulation. Some
degree of soil disturbance will be incidental to the construction of such structures. Farmers
are entitled to sufficiently definite regulations and standards so that administrative decision-
making is fair and predictable. The SADC is in the best position to promulgate such
guidelines. If the SADC fails to undertake the necessary rulemaking to establish guidance on
the extent of soil disturbance that is permissible on preserved farms, then it can expect
administrative due process challenges to its enforcement actions. It is only the extreme
nature of this case that saves the present enforcement action. (pp. 35-37)

5. Quaker Valley’s civil-rights claim is without merit as the SADC’s efforts fell fully within
its mandate, and the Court affirms the dismissal of that claim. (pp. 37-38)

       REVERSED except as to dismissal of the civil-rights claim, which is AFFIRMED.

CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, PATTERSON,
FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and TIMPONE join in JUSTICE ALBIN’S
opinion.
                                               3
                                      SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY
                                A-43/44/45/
46 September Term 2016
                                                 078517

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, STATE
AGRICULTURE DEVELOPMENT
COMMITTEE, COUNTY OF
HUNTERDON and TOWNSHIP OF
FRANKLIN,

     Plaintiffs-Appellants
     and Cross-Respondents,

          v.

QUAKER VALLEY FARMS, LLC and
DAVID DEN HOLLANDER,

     Defendants-Respondents
     and Cross-Appellants.


          Argued January 2, 2018 -- Decided August 14, 2018

          On certification to the Superior Court,
          Appellate Division.

          John R. Renella, Deputy Attorney General,
          argued the cause for appellant and cross-
          respondent State of New Jersey, State
          Agriculture Development Committee
          (Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General,
          attorney; Melissa H. Raksa, Assistant
          Attorney General, of counsel, Jason T.
          Stypinski and Timothy P. Malone, Deputy
          Attorneys General, on the briefs).

          Robert P. Merenich argued the cause for
          respondents and cross-appellants Quaker
          Valley Farms, LLC, and David den Hollander
          (Gemmel, Todd & Merenich, attorneys; Robert
          P. Merenich, on the briefs).

          Michael B. Lavery submitted a letter brief
          on behalf of appellant and cross-respondent


                                1
             Township of Franklin (Lavery, Selvaggi,
             Abromitis & Cohen, attorneys).

             Shana L. Taylor, County Counsel submitted a
             letter brief on behalf of appellant and
             cross-respondent County of Hunterdon (County
             of Hunterdon Office of County Counsel,
             attorney).

             Lewis P. Goldshore submitted a brief on
             behalf of amicus curiae New Jersey Farm
             Bureau.

        JUSTICE ALBIN delivered the opinion of the Court.

        Quaker Valley Farms, LLC (Quaker Valley) owns approximately

120 acres of deed-restricted farmland in Franklin Township,

Hunterdon County.    As part of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation

Program, the State purchased an easement on the property that

limits the use of the land to agricultural purposes.    The deed

of easement prohibits any activity on the property that is

“detrimental to . . . soil conservation,” but permits the

construction of “any new buildings for agricultural purposes.”

The tension between those impermissible and permissible

activities is at the heart of the controversy in this case.

        Quaker Valley excavated and leveled twenty acres of the

farm previously used for the production of crops to erect hoop

houses (temporary greenhouses) in which flowers would be grown.

In the process, Quaker Valley destroyed the land’s prime quality

soil.    The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC)

investigated Quaker Valley’s excavation activities and concluded


                                   2
that Quaker Valley had violated its deed of easement and the

Agriculture Retention and Development Act (ARDA), 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-

11 to -48 -- one of the statutes implementing the Farmland

Preservation Program.

     The SADC brought an action in the Superior Court to enforce

the restrictions placed on the use of Quaker Valley’s farmland

and to halt the further destruction of the property’s premier

quality soil.   The trial court granted summary judgment in favor

of the SADC, halting Quaker Valley’s project and ordering the

remediation of the despoiled land.

     The Appellate Division reversed, finding that the

imperative of soil conservation had to be reconciled with the

permissible construction of buildings for agricultural purposes

under both the deed of easement and the ARDA.   The panel

construed the deed of easement to permit the construction of

hoop houses, “so long as the landowner conserves soil to the

extent practicable.”    The panel remanded to the trial court to

determine “whether [Quaker Valley] took the necessary steps, to

the extent practicable, to conserve the soil disrupted by the

land-grading activities.”

     We now conclude that the Appellate Division erred in

overturning the grant of summary judgment in favor of the SADC.

The incontrovertible evidence of record is that Quaker Valley



                                  3
permanently damaged premier soil on twenty acres of farmland

protected by the deed of easement and the ARDA.

     The preservation of high quality soil and open space for

future generations is one of the chief aims of the Farmland

Preservation Program.    Although Quaker Valley had the right to

erect hoop houses, it did not have the authority to permanently

damage a wide swath of premier quality soil in doing so.

     Quaker Valley crossed a threshold that clearly violated the

deed and the ARDA.   Nevertheless, those who own deed-restricted

farmland must have well delineated guidelines or rules that will

permit them to make informed decisions about the permissible

limits of their activities.   The State has yet to promulgate

such guidelines or rules.   The imperatives of due process

require that the State give farmers reasonable notice of the

permissible agricultural uses of the land, particularly when

there are seemingly conflicting provisions in a deed of

easement.   Farmers must know where the goalposts are set before

the State burdens them with costly enforcement actions.

     In this case, however, we hold that even under the existing

law and the present deed, any reasonable person should have

known that despoiling so much prime quality soil was an

unauthorized activity.   We remand to the trial court to continue

with the remediation plan earlier ordered.

                                 I.

                                  4
                                 A.

     The State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) is a

state agency responsible for the enforcement of the Agriculture

Retention and Development Act (ARDA), 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-11 to -48.

The ARDA is a legislative scheme that authorizes the “State and

county organizations to coordinate the development of farmland

preservation programs within identified areas where agriculture

will be presumed the first priority use of the land.”   
N.J.S.A.

4:1C-12(c).   It is the county-level agriculture development

boards, established under 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-14, that are largely

responsible for reviewing and approving applications to the

Farmland Preservation Program.   
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-15; N.J.A.C. 2:76-

6.5(a) to (e).   The SADC is empowered to financially help a

county purchase an easement on farmland for the purpose of

preserving its agricultural use in perpetuity.   See 
N.J.S.A.

4:1C-8; N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.5(f).

     Quaker Valley owns approximately 120 acres of deed-

restricted farmland property subject to the ARDA.   In February

2008, the SADC filed in the General Equity Part of the Superior

Court a verified complaint against defendants Quaker Valley and

David Den Hollander, an owner and operator of Quaker Valley

(collectively Quaker Valley).    Shortly after the filing of the

complaint, the court allowed Hunterdon County and Franklin



                                  5
Township to intervene as plaintiffs with the SADC (collectively

SADC).

     The complaint alleges that Quaker Valley permanently

damaged prime soil on twenty acres of the farm while in the

process of excavating and leveling the land for the construction

of seventy-two “greenhouse-type 'hoop’ houses.”   The complaint

also alleges that Quaker Valley’s “destruction of the soil

precludes its use for a variety of agricultural uses” and thus

directly violates not only the deed of easement’s command to

conserve the soil, but also the ARDA.   The SADC maintained that

immediate action had to be taken to ensure that Quaker Valley

did not cause “any further destruction of the soil profile of

the site.”   As relief, the SADC sought a judgment halting Quaker

Valley from further degrading the land and from constructing

more hoop houses.    The SADC also proposed the implementation of

a remediation plan that would restore the soil to its original

profile “to the extent possible.”

     Quaker Valley filed a counterclaim asserting, in part, that

material terms of the deed of easement are vague and therefore

unenforceable and that the SADC exercised its police powers to

coerce, intimidate, and interfere with Quaker Valley’s property

rights in violation of the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, 
N.J.S.A.

10:6-2(b) and (c).



                                  6
     The SADC and Quaker Valley both moved for summary judgment.

We recite the relevant facts from the summary judgment record.

                                B.

     The Mathews family owned the 120-acre farmland in Franklin

Township, Hunterdon County for over a hundred years, growing and

harvesting corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, and hay.    In 1989,

Harold and Rosalie Mathews applied to the SADC to sell an

easement on their property that would restrict its use to

agricultural purposes.   At the time of the application,

approximately 100 acres of the Mathews’ farmland were actively

used for crop production.   Ultimately, the Hunterdon County

Agricultural Development Board selected the Mathews’ property

for inclusion in New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program.

The Mathews’ property was chosen for the program, in part,

because of the high quality of its soil -- described as “prime”

soil -- which has the ingredients to produce a wide variety and

high yield of crops.

     In 1993, in consideration for a deed of easement, which

restricts the use of the farm for only agricultural purposes,

Hunterdon County paid the Mathews $402,680.07.
1 In 1997, Quaker




1  The SADC provided Hunterdon County with a grant of $241,608.04
to purchase the Mathews’ farm. The grant monies were made
available through the Open Space Preservation Bond Act of 1989,
L. 1989, c. 183.

                                 7
Valley purchased the Mathews’ farm for $500,000, subject to the

deed of easement.2

                                C.

     The meaning of the relevant terms of the deed of easement,

in relation to one another, is the focal point of the dispute in

this case.   The terms of the deed of easement are lifted

directly from a regulation promulgated by the SADC.      N.J.A.C.

2:76-6.15.   The easement terms give context to the events at

issue.

     Paragraph two of the deed requires that the land be

“retained for agricultural use and production in compliance with

[the ARDA] and all other rules promulgated by the [SADC].”

Accord N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.15(a)(2).       “Agricultural use” is defined

through a non-exhaustive list of farm activities, which include

the “production, harvesting, storage, grading, packaging,

processing and the wholesale and retail marketing of crops,

plants, animals and other related commodities and the use and




2  Quaker Valley acquired the farm for approximately $4200 per
acre. Presumably, had there been no limitation on the
development rights of the farm, Quaker Valley would have paid a
higher price to purchase the property. See State Agric. Dev.
Comm., Farmland Availability/Farmland Affordability, https://
nj.gov/agriculture/sadc/news/hottopics/farmavailabilityintro.pdf
(“The Farmland Preservation Program helps make preserved
farmland more affordable to farmers by removing the development
value from the land.”).
                                   8
application of techniques and methods of soil preparation and

management.”    Ibid.

     Paragraph seven of the deed of easement mandates that

landowners take no action that would be contrary to soil

preservation:   “No activity shall be permitted on the Premises

which would be detrimental to . . . erosion control[] or soil

conservation, nor shall any other activity be permitted which

would be detrimental to the continued agricultural use of the

Premises.”   Accord N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.15(a)(7).   Paragraph seven of

the deed, however, must coexist with paragraph fourteen, which

states that landowners “may construct any new buildings for

agricultural purposes.”   Accord N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.15(a)(14).

                                D.

     Quaker Valley operates a wholesale horticultural business,

which produces plants for large retail outlets, such as Wal-

Mart, Home Depot, and Kmart.   Since at least 2001, Quaker Valley

used a twenty-acre field of prime soil to grow chrysanthemums in

pots on top of woven fabric laid on the land.   In September

2007, Quaker Valley suffered a million-dollar-plus crop loss

when a hailstorm damaged the exposed crop of chrysanthemums.    To

protect against such future losses, Quaker Valley decided to

construct heated hoop houses to provide cover to its




                                 9
chrysanthemum crops.3   Hoop houses are essentially temporary

greenhouses with a metal frame and plastic covering.     Unlike a

traditional greenhouse, a hoop house has no concrete footing.

      The sloped twenty-acre field presented a topographical

problem for Quaker Valley because hoop houses, for reasons of

safety and efficiency, are commonly constructed on level ground.

As a result, Quaker Valley, which had previously constructed

hoop houses on existing soil, for the first time altered the

elevation of the land to accommodate new hoop houses.    In

preparation for the erection of the hoop houses, Quaker Valley

excavated the earth on the twenty-acre field, including the

prime quality soil, and then leveled the ground.

      In October 2007, a concerned neighbor reported the

excavation and leveling activities on the Quaker Valley property

to the SADC.   The SADC assembled a team of experts to

investigate the effects of Quaker Valley’s project “on the

agricultural resource value of the farm.”4   During a site visit

to the twenty-acre field, the team found the displacement of

large volumes of soil material.    In some areas, Quaker Valley





3 Since 1994, hoop houses have been present on the farmland.

4  The team included representatives from the SADC, the Hunterdon
County Agriculture Development Board, the National Resources
Conservation Service (an agency of the United States Department
of Agriculture), the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, and
the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
                                  10
had cut or removed three to five feet and in other areas ten to

twelve feet of soil.    At some locations, the excavation of the

soil had exposed the sandstone bedrock.    The team of experts

found that top-grade topsoil had been mixed with the rocky

subsoil and stockpiled in large mounds.    The team determined

that Quaker Valley’s excavation activities had destroyed a large

amount of prime soil for a variety of agricultural uses.

        Howard C. Smith, a State Resource Conservationist with the

United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources

Conservation Service, visited the Quaker Valley farm in February

2008.    In a certification, he expressed his shock about what he

observed.    He stated, “[i]n all my experiences I have never seen

the extent of destruction of soils to an ongoing farming

operation as has occurred at the Quaker Valley Farm Site.”    He

indicated that he was familiar with “other large-scale farmland

cut[-]and[-]fill grading activities” where “the soil was

carefully removed in layers and then stockpiled to the side” so

that the land could be restored to its natural state.    At Quaker

Valley, Smith found “a cut-and-fill operation in which little

soil was separated by layer, except some topsoil, and instead

the layers of soil appeared to have mixed together.”    He

determined that it would be “impossible for all practical

purposes to ever separate the component soil layers, or



                                  11
horizons, and reapply them to recreate the highly productive

Prime soils which had previously existed.”

     In a report that he filed later, Smith noted that the soil

on the farm was “formed over thousands of years and was

destroyed in a matter of days.”    He concluded that the twenty-

acre field could not be classified any longer as “Prime farmland

soils.”

     Dr. William E. Palkovics, an expert in soil science and

agronomy, filed a report with the SADC that set forth his

findings on the harm caused by Quaker Valley’s excavation

activities.    For purposes of his study, Dr. Palkovics divided a

twenty-five-acre field into three areas.   In each, he described

the extent of the soil disturbance and the prospect of

remediation.   In area three, the soil removal was so complete

that the underlying bedrock was exposed.   In area two,

“earthmoving ha[d] removed or altered the characteristics of the

original soil,” and Dr. Palkovics found topsoil “buried and

intermixed with the fill and subsoil.”   In both areas, he

concluded the soil was no longer suitable for crop production,

and therefore he classified “the agricultural yield rating” as

“zero.”   In area one, a five-acre tract, Dr. Palkovics noted

that, although valuable topsoil had been stripped away, the




                                  12
subsoil remained intact.   This area suffered “the least

disruption” to its natural conditions.5

     Dr. Palkovics discovered some of the topsoil stockpiled in

two separate locations, but determined that “[m]uch of the

natural physical internal soil properties that slowly develop

over time [had] been destroyed.”     According to Dr. Palkovics,

“it is not possible to fully restore the original agricultural

productivity of the disturbed area by man-made means due to the

massive disruption of the original soil properties.”    He stated,

however, that “a new soil profile can be constructed to restore

some agricultural productivity.”

     Quaker Valley’s expert, Laurel F. Mueller, a professional

soil scientist, expressed her opinions in certifications, expert

reports, and deposition testimony.    She did not “dispute the

collective opinion that soil profiles on the graded portions of

this project’s landscape have been permanently altered.”

Mueller maintained that the excavation and leveling activities

had permitted the land “to support profitable, intensive

agricultural business operations, which can take advantage of

real estate attributes other than the underlying soil




5  The trial court subsequently determined that Quaker Valley had
not carried out excavation activities in area one and that it
was thus not in need of remediation. Because area one is
comprised of approximately five acres, we accordingly refer to
the area at issue as a twenty-acre field.
                                13
characteristics.”    Mueller claimed that although “agricultural

productivity would be lost for row crops if no remediation steps

were ever taken,” agricultural productivity still could be

achieved through “many forms of intensive agriculture . . . such

as greenhouses and hoop houses, for which this graded site is

now suitable.”   Nevertheless, according to Mueller, “most of the

topsoil was properly removed and stockpiled” and “not largely

mixed during earthmoving operations.”   Last, Mueller concluded

that the deed of easement was “inadequate to guarantee . . .

protection for land in private agribusiness ownership” because a

number of agricultural uses were inconsistent with soil

conservation.

     Quaker Valley claims that because the Hunterdon County Soil

Conservation District approved Quaker Valley’s plan -- known as

a C.251 Plan -- to address the storm-water runoff from the

construction of the hoop houses, it therefore had complied with

paragraph seven of the deed of easement.    (“No activity shall be

permitted on the Premises which would be detrimental to . . .

erosion control, or soil conservation.”).   The SADC disputes

that the approval of the C.251 storm-water runoff plan gave

Quaker Valley the authorization to destroy prime soil on the

twenty-acre field.   It bears mentioning that Quaker Valley never

approached the Hunterdon County Agriculture Development Board or

the SADC, the entities responsible for enforcing the terms of

                                 14
the easement, to seek advice about or approval for leveling the

twenty-acre field of prime soil.

                                 II.

                                 A.

       In February 2008, the trial court temporarily enjoined

Quaker Valley from continuing construction of the hoop houses.

Two months later, the court entered a preliminary injunction

barring earthmoving operations in violation of the deed of

easement and the ARDA and barring the use of any of the

constructed hoop houses.6

       The SADC moved for summary judgment on its claims that

Quaker Valley had violated the deed of easement and ARDA; Quaker

Valley cross-moved for summary judgment on its claims that the

deed was unenforceable and that the SADC, through its

enforcement efforts, had violated the New Jersey Civil Rights

Act.

                                 B.

       On August 8, 2012, the Honorable Peter A. Buchsbaum,

J.S.C., granted summary judgment in favor of the SADC, finding

that Quaker Valley had violated the terms of the deed of

easement and the ARDA.   The court maintained that the

construction of greenhouses and hoop houses, which is a


6  Quaker Valley had already constructed sixteen hoop houses
(twelve with plastic covers and four without).
                                 15
permitted use under the deed, had to be reconciled with the

provision banning activities detrimental to “soil conservation.”

Looking to the definitions of “farmland” in the Open Space

Preservation Act, L. 1989, c. 183, and the Garden State

Preservation Trust Act, 
N.J.S.A. 13:8C-3, for guidance, the

court asserted that “the content of the soil, the soil’s ability

to support agriculture, and the ability of the land to have

agriculture production as its first priority use are at the core

of farmland preservation.”   The court also noted that “the

content of the soil” on the Quaker Valley property was “a

critical factor” in its “gaining preserved farmland status.”

The court cast the issue as “whether the construction of the

[hoop houses] would allow [Quaker Valley] to change the

composition of the soil so drastically.”

     Ultimately, the court concluded that even if Quaker Valley

had the right to “'grade’ the land, it did not have the

authority to permanently change the unique soil structure

through a major earth-moving project.”   The court determined

that Quaker Valley’s construction activities “destroyed the

quality of the soil,” rendering the field unfit “for normal

agricultural use,” and thus violated the deed of easement and

the ARDA.

     The court rejected Quaker Valley’s argument that the C.251

Plan, which was intended to control drainage and prevent soil

                                16
erosion from the construction project, authorized the kind of

excavation and ground leveling that led to the destruction of

the quality of the prime soil.

     The court dismissed Quaker Valley’s civil-rights claim.      It

found that the SADC was simply acting within the guidelines set

forth in the ARDA and therefore rejected Quaker Valley’s

assertion that the governmental authorities improperly infringed

on its property rights or engaged in conduct that shocked the

court’s conscience.

     In June 2013, the court conducted a four-day trial on

remediation.   In setting forth the criteria for a remediation

plan, the court recognized that, because of the “unalterabl[e]”

changes made to the land, Quaker Valley would not be able to

restore the soil completely “to its prior character and

chemistry” or “replicate precisely the prior slopes” on the

field.   Nevertheless, the court ordered Quaker Valley to fill

the most disturbed areas with specific depths of subsoil and

topsoil and to recreate the preexisting slopes.   The court set

target goals for the growth of “representative crops,” such as

“corn, hay, alfalfa, and soy beans.”   The court also allowed for

the maintenance of some hoop houses in the area, provided their

presence would be consistent with the remediation plan.    The

court ordered the Hunterdon County Soil Conservation District



                                 17
or, if necessary, a court-appointed master to supervise the

remediation plan.

     Quaker Valley appealed.

                                C.

     The Appellate Division initially affirmed.    The panel

recognized the tension between the deed of easement’s soil

conservation mandate and its allowance of the construction of

agricultural buildings.   The panel also acknowledged that the

lack of clear standards concerning “the methods and extent of

permissible soil displacement” during “greenhouse farming

activities” creates “uncertainty and ambiguity.”   The panel,

however, concluded that the undisputed facts did not leave it in

a “grey” interpretive area because “the provisions of the [deed

of easement], reasonably read together, do not authorize such

permanent and unnecessary disruption and degradation of highly

rated soils.”   The panel “discern[ed] no basis to disturb the

court’s decision on remedy.”

                                D.

     The Appellate Division then granted Quaker Valley’s motion

for reconsideration and reversed its affirmance of summary

judgment in favor of the SADC, but affirmed the dismissal of

Quaker Valley’s civil-rights claim.   The panel also noted that

any judgment on remedy must await a final determination on



                                18
whether Quaker Valley is in violation of the deed of easement

and ARDA.

     In light of the competing terms of the deed of easement,

the panel framed the issue concisely.   “[A] farmer may not, in

the process of building structures for agricultural purposes,

disregard the project’s effects on the soil,” and “the duty to

conserve soil must not be so great that it precludes a farmer’s

ability to engage in a permitted construction project.”     Within

that framework, the panel adopted a standard for the

interpretation of the deed of easement:   “[T]he construction of

structures for agricultural purposes (including hoophouses)” is

permissible “so long as the landowner conserves soil to the

extent practicable in doing so.”    Under that standard, the panel

held that the trial “court must determine whether a more

protective measure would have been both economically and

practically feasible for the farm in question.”

     Although the panel maintained that the trial court relied

“too heavily on soil conservation,” it nevertheless held that

“[i]f defendants did engage in broad-scale indiscriminate mixing

of topsoil and subsoil, then we have no doubt that defendants

violated paragraph 7” of the deed of easement.    The panel,

however, determined that genuinely disputed issues of fact

remained concerning “whether such mixing occurred” and whether

“prime soils were irremediably 'destroyed.’”   The panel,

                               19
therefore, remanded to the trial court for further proceedings

under its enunciated test.

     We granted the petitions for certification filed by the

SADC, Hunterdon County, and Franklin Township, 
229 N.J. 583

(2017); 
229 N.J. 605 (2017); 
229 N.J. 606 (2017), and a cross-

petition filed by Quaker Valley, 
229 N.J. 605 (2017).    We also

granted the motion of the New Jersey Farm Bureau to participate

as amicus curiae.

                              III.

                               A.

     The SADC asserts that the Appellate Division’s

“practicability” standard “prioritizes the agricultural industry

over farmland preservation” and, “if left uncorrected, will

severely undermine the Farmland Preservation Program by

potentially allowing large scale destruction of agricultural

soil so long as doing so promotes agricultural industry.”   The

SADC emphasizes that “[o]ne of the fundamental purposes of ARDA

is to preserve farmland permanently for a variety of

agricultural uses by future generations of farmers” and that,

“[b]y destroying the agricultural potential of the property’s

prime soil,” Quaker Valley defeated that purpose.   The SADC

maintains that the deed of easement, purchased through

taxpayers’ monies, restricts the landowner from using the land

solely for its most financially beneficial purpose at the

                               20
expense of soil conservation.   According to the SADC, under the

practicability standard, “a landowner could destroy a preserved

farm’s prime soil so long as some sort of agricultural use

occurred.”

     The SADC also contends that the Appellate Division failed

to afford its interpretation of its own regulation -- a

regulation incorporated into the deed of easement -- appropriate

deference.   The SADC concludes that its “longstanding

interpretation of ARDA does not promote agricultural industry

over soil conservation, as this approach would undercut the goal

of permanent preservation of productive farmland.”

     Last, the SADC rejects Quaker Valley’s arguments that the

Hunterdon County Soil Conservation District’s approval of the

C.251 Plan constituted compliance with the deed’s restrictions

and that the government actors’ enforcement efforts violated the

New Jersey Civil Rights Act.

                                B.

     Quaker Valley counters that the SADC’s failure to provide

standards or guidelines, such as, “Thus far you may build (or

grade) and no further,” is fatal to its effort to enforce the

“soil conservation” restriction.     Quaker Valley contends that

the SADC is bound to the deed of easement, which does not bar

soil disturbance or restrict the construction of greenhouses.

It maintains that the productivity of a farm into the future

                                21
depends on land devoted to agricultural production, which

includes “land under structures” devoted to agricultural and

horticultural uses.    Quaker Valley asserts that the deed of

easement does not favor one particular form of agricultural

production over another and that its greenhouses promote a valid

agricultural purpose no different than the growing of row crops.

In its view, the removal of soil as a precondition to the

building of hoop houses is not an activity inconsistent with the

deed.

        Quaker Valley particularly emphasizes that whether the soil

on the twenty-acre field was in fact “prime soil” and whether

the soil removed was mixed and irremediably degraded are

disputed facts and, for support, points to what it considers to

be competing opinions offered by the experts.    According to

Quaker Valley, the SADC overestimated the amount of topsoil

removed during the grading process in preparation for the hoop

houses, and the trial court “found that the two topsoil

stockpiles derived from the tract . . . were both available for

reuse.”

        Quaker Valley, moreover, argues that it adhered to the

C.251 Plan and therefore demonstrated that it complied with the

soil conservation requirements of the deed of easement.    Last,

Quaker Valley alleges that an enforcement action without



                                  22
guidelines or standards constituted an arbitrary and

unconstitutional regulatory taking.

                                C.

     Amicus New Jersey Farm Bureau submits that because “the

SADC has not adopted soil disturbance limitations in any form,”

farmers, such as Quaker Valley, have not been provided with

adequate notice of what agricultural activities will violate a

deed of easement.   The Farm Bureau stresses that “soil

disruption requires objective limits or standards” and that the

SADC cannot establish that the soil disturbance in this case was

a prohibited activity under the deed.   According to the Bureau,

the SADC’s case-by-case approach -- without clear pre-existing

standards -- violates substantive due process.

                                IV.

                                A.

     In reviewing the propriety of a grant of summary judgment,

“we apply the same standard governing the trial court -- we view

the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving

party.”   Murray v. Plainfield Rescue Squad, 
210 N.J. 581, 584

(2012).   Here, Quaker Valley must receive “the benefit of all

favorable evidence and inferences presented in the record” in

assessing whether it violated the deed of easement and ARDA.

See id. at 585.   Even though this appeal does not come to us

from a final agency determination, “an agency’s interpretation

                                23
and implementation of its rules enforcing the statutes for which

it is responsible” is still entitled to deference.   In re

Freshwater Wetlands Prot. Act Rules, 
180 N.J. 478, 488-89

(2004).   We review issues of law de novo.   We therefore accord

no deference to the interpretative analysis of either the

Appellate Division or trial court, except as we are persuaded by

the reasoning of those courts.   Zabilowicz v. Kelsey, 
200 N.J.
 507, 512 (2009); see also Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Twp. Comm.

of Manalapan, 
140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995) (“A trial court’s

interpretation of the law and the legal consequences that flow

from established facts are not entitled to any special

deference.”).

                                 B.

     Before addressing the primary issue before us -- whether

Quaker Valley’s grading and leveling of the twenty-acre field

violated the deed of easement and ARDA -- we begin with a brief

overview of the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program and the

statutes that implement that program.

     The Farmland Preservation Program was initiated in 1981

pursuant to the Farmland Preservation Bond Act, which created a

financing scheme for acquiring “development” easements for

farmlands.   L. 1981, c. 276.   In selling a development easement,

the landowner in essence surrenders the right to develop the

land for any nonagricultural purposes.   The easements are aimed

                                 24
at preserving farmland in perpetuity.   See Governor’s Statement

upon Signing S. 3233 (Aug. 31, 1981) (“[T]he purchase of

development easements restricts the use of farmland to

agricultural purposes, but allows the land to continue to be

privately owned, tax-paying open space.   The landowner can sell

the property, as long as the buyer continues to use it for

farmland.”).   The “principal purpose” of the Farmland

Preservation Bond Act is “the long-term preservation of

significant masses of reasonably contiguous agricultural land

. . . and the maintenance and support of increased agricultural

production as the first priority use of that land.”   
N.J.S.A.

4:1C-13(h).

       In line with this mission of protecting New Jersey’s

diminishing land from intensive nonagricultural development, the

Legislature passed a series of bond acts, including the Open

Space Preservation Bond Act of 1989, L. 1989, c. 183, and the

Farmland and Historic Preservation and Blue Acres Bond Act of

1995, L. 1995, c. 204.   The purpose of the bond acts was to make

monies available for preserving farmland and open spaces.     Most

notably, in 1998, New Jersey’s citizens approved a

constitutional amendment directing that a portion of sales tax

revenue be dedicated to preserving “farmland for agricultural or

horticultural use and production.”    N.J. Const. art. VIII, § 2,

¶ 7.

                                 25
     The Right to Farm Act, 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-1 to -10, another part

of the Farmland Preservation Program, established the SADC to

promulgate rules and to administer and enforce the goals of

farmland preservation.   
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-4, -5, -10.4.7   The SADC is

the enforcement arm of the ARDA.     
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-5, -6.

     To repeat, the ARDA “authorize[s] the establishment of

State and county organizations to coordinate the development of

farmland preservation programs . . . where agriculture will be

presumed the first priority use of the land.”    
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-

12(c).   The ARDA permits, through state, county, and municipal

funding formulas, the purchase of development easements on farm

property, restricting the use of the land solely for

agricultural purposes.   
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-31; see generally 
N.J.S.A.

4:1C-11 to -48.

     The SADC and county-level agricultural development boards,

established under 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-14, act in partnership to

preserve farmland.   See 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-12(c), -15.   The county-

level agricultural development boards are largely responsible




7  The SADC consists of eleven members, including the Secretary
of Agriculture, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection,
the Commissioner of Community Affairs, the State Treasurer, and
the Dean of Cook College of Rutgers University (currently known
as the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences),
or their designees, and other citizens, including farmers.

N.J.S.A. 4:1C-4.
                                26
for reviewing and approving applications to the Farmland

Preservation Program.   N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.5(a) to (e).

     The criteria for evaluating an application for a

development easement include a number of factors, such as the

size of the property, its soil quality, the number of tillable

acres, the commitment of a municipality and county to the “long

term viability of the agricultural industry,” and the

“imminence” that agricultural land will be converted to a

nonagricultural use.    N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.16.   Under the soil

criterion, priority is “given to soils which exhibit superior

quality, require minimal maintenance and have a greater

potential for long term viability for a variety of agricultural

purposes.”   N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.16(c)(1).   Applying those factors,

the county agricultural development boards determine how to best

expend the limited funds available for farm preservation.

                                 C.

     The provisions of the deed of easement that now govern the

120-acre Quaker Valley farm are drawn from a regulation

promulgated by the SADC.   See N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.15.   Under that

regulation, “deed restrictions . . . shall be liberally

construed to effectuate the purpose and intent of the Farmland

Preservation Bond Act and the [ARDA].”   N.J.A.C. 2:76-6.15(c)

(citation omitted).    The SADC also instructs that “the easement

must be read, and interpreted, in its entirety, so that the

                                 27
interpretation of each individual provision is consistent with

the overall intent of the document and interpretation of all

other provisions.”   SADC, Interpreting the Provisions of the

Deed of Easement, Report No. 1, General Guidance 4 (rev. May 26,

2011), http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/sadc/farmpreserve/

postpres/reportgeneralguidance.pdf.

     We now turn to the relevant terms of the deed of easement

in this case.   Those terms provide:

          [Paragraph Two].      The premises shall be
          retained for agricultural use and production
          in compliance with 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-11 [to -48],
          L. 1983, c. 32 [the ARDA], and all other rules
          promulgated by the [SADC]. See N.J.A.C. 2:76-
          6:15(a)(2).

          [Paragraph Five].    No sand, gravel, loam,
          rock, or other minerals shall be deposited on
          or removed from the Premises excepting only
          those materials required for the agricultural
          purpose for which the land is being used. See
          N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(5).

          [Paragraph Seven].     No activity shall be
          permitted on the Premises which would be
          detrimental to . . . soil conservation, nor
          shall any other activity be permitted which
          would   be  detrimental   to  the  continued
          agricultural use of the Premises.        See
          N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(7).

          [Paragraph Twelve].    . . . [The landowner]
          shall be permitted to construct, improve or
          reconstruct any roadway necessary to service
          crops,   bogs,   agricultural  buildings  or
          reservoirs as may be necessary. See N.J.A.C.
          2:76-6:15(a)(12).

          [Paragraph Fourteen].   [The landowner] may
          construct any new buildings for agricultural

                                28
             purposes.   See N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(14).

        Clearly, earth-moving activities, which will result in the

disturbance of soil, are envisioned under the deed of easement

and the SADC regulation.     The SADC regulation and the deed

advance the dual goals of the ARDA:     promotion of the

agricultural industry and preservation of farmland.       
N.J.S.A.

4:1C-12.    The regulation and easement terms encourage the

agricultural use of preserved farmland, N.J.A.C. 2:76-

6:15(a)(2), which includes the construction of roads and

buildings for agricultural purposes, N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(12),

(14).    They also unambiguously prohibit activities that are

“detrimental” to soil preservation.     N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(7).

The deed’s terms must be read reasonably to achieve their aims,

so that one is not sacrificed for another.     That requires that

the terms be reconciled in a manner that a reasonable person

would have understood at the time the parties agreed to the deed

of easement.

        We understand that our task is made difficult by the

failure of the SADC to promulgate regulations to guide farmers

on the kind and extent of agricultural activities that are

permissible under the deed.     Farmers must know before they act -

- not afterwards -- whether a construction project consistent

with agricultural use and production is at odds with soil

conservation.    Any regulated industry has a right to know the

                                   29
permissible limits of its activities through clearly delineated

guidelines or through a process of seeking authorization from

the regulator.

     However, the absence of regulations or a permitting process

does not mean that anything goes -- that one easement term can

be read out of the deed to advance a preferred term.    If this

were a closer case, we might conclude that the lack of clearly

enunciated guidelines bars an enforcement action.   But the

activities here were so extreme that, in the end, we are

persuaded on this record that no landowner could have reasonably

believed that the leveling of a twenty-acre field and

destruction of so much prime soil was permissible under the deed

of easement.

                               V.

                               A.

     The undisputed evidence before us is that Quaker Valley’s

leveling activities in preparation for the hoop houses led to

drastic and permanent alterations to the quality of the soil.

While the use of preserved farmland for nursery production is

plainly a permitted use under the deed, Quaker Valley is obliged

to manage the property in a manner that does not violate other

terms of the deed of easement, namely soil conservation.   While

Quaker Valley had a right to construct hoop houses, it did not

have the right to needlessly destroy so much prime soil.

                               30
     Based on the record before us, we agree with the trial

court that Quaker Valley’s activities “did damage to both soil

conservation and future agricultural use” and thereby

constituted a gross violation of the ARDA and the deed to which

the farmland was subject.    While Quaker Valley’s construction of

hoop houses to protect their horticultural crops was an

appropriate agricultural use for the preserved farmland, it was

required to be carried out in balance with soil conservation and

the ARDA’s overarching focus on preserving the agricultural use

of farmland in perpetuity.   All the experts agreed that Quaker

Valley caused significant damage to the quality of the soil.

There is no genuine dispute about that material fact.   According

to Quaker Valley’s own expert, the massive leveling activities

“drastically altered” the quality of the prime soil such that,

without remediation, it will no longer be possible to use the

soil for row crops.   In other words, Quaker Valley’s activities

did not fall within a grey zone -– but rather plainly violated

the ARDA’s goal of preserving the agricultural productivity of

the farmland.

     Although the leveling of farmland in preparation for hoop

houses may be a common agricultural practice, such activities

cannot trump other express provisions of the deed and ARDA.    One

of the fundamental purposes of the ARDA is to preserve farmland

permanently for a variety of agricultural uses by future

                                 31
generations of farmers.   See 
N.J.S.A. 4:1C-13(b) (providing non-

exhaustive list of agricultural activities that are contemplated

by ARDA).   While the alterations to the soil may have made the

land more suitable for nursery operations, Quaker Valley

permanently destroyed the use of the soil for other agricultural

uses, specifically the growing of row crops -- the very

agricultural use which was a significant reason the property was

originally selected to be preserved.

     As for the deed of easement, the SADC has emphasized that

its provisions must be read in their entirety.   Accordingly, the

provision authorizing the construction of new structures,

N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a), does not override all others and cannot

be divorced from the deed’s express prohibition against

activities detrimental to soil conservation.   Quaker Valley’s

leveling activities, which indisputably nullified a large swath

of soil for the growing of row crops in the future, clearly

violated the deed of easement.

     Nor do we find merit in Quaker Valley’s argument that their

adherence to the C.251 Plan is evidence that their activities

were not detrimental to soil conservation.   The C.251 Plan -- in

accordance with the Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act,


N.J.S.A. 4:24-39 to -55 -- was limited to concerns about soil

erosion, sedimentation, and related storm water management

controls.   It did not authorize Quaker Valley to permanently

                                 32
alter the soil profile or to intermix layers of the topsoil and

subsoil.   The purpose of a C.251 Plan is, in part, to protect

the land from storm water runoff and conserve the soil from

erosion.   
N.J.S.A. 4:24-40.   The C.251 Plan did not authorize

the despoiling of large quantities of prime soil.

     Finally, while there was no dispute about whether Quaker

Valley had permanently altered the soil profile, there was, in

fact, disagreement among the experts concerning the degree of

remediation necessary to address the violation of the easement.

Those disagreements were aired at a four-day trial on the issue

of remedy.   After hearing from the SADC’s and Quaker Valley’s

experts, Judge Buchsbaum made factfindings in which he accepted

part of Quaker Valley’s expert’s conclusions, including the

amount of topsoil that would need to be restored.   As for the

differing opinions about the condition of the topsoil that had

been stockpiled, Judge Buchsbaum stated that the “degree of

treatment” to be used on the existing soil stockpiles “will be

addressed during the actual remediation process.”   During

remediation, Quaker Valley will thus have the opportunity to

demonstrate how much of the topsoil was properly removed and

stockpiled during the leveling operations.

                                 B.

     Under the Appellate Division’s standard, a court would

consider “whether a more protective measure would have been both

                                 33
economically and practically feasible” when a farmer erects a

structure for an agricultural purpose.   (emphasis added).    The

flaw in that standard is that it subordinates soil conservation

to agricultural use.    That standard does not give due deference

to the plain language of the ARDA and the SADC’s own

interpretation of the statute, as reflected in the regulation

which governs deeds for development easements.   The deed of

easement and the SADC regulation plainly state that “[n]o

activity shall be permitted on the Premises which would be

detrimental to . . . soil conservation.”   N.J.A.C. 2:76-

6.15(a)(7).   Accordingly, the economics of a particular

agricultural use cannot be the end of the analysis.    The

government’s purchase of the easement protects noneconomic

interests as well, specifically the preservation of farmland and

its soil.   Taken to the extreme, that standard might allow

landowners to permanently destroy large quantities of quality

soil as long as it is more “economically and practically

feasible” to do so.    An economically lucrative hoop house can

presumably be built or taken down in a matter of days, but once

quality soil is permanently destroyed, it may take countless

years to be restored.

                                 C.

     Although the record indicates that the SADC has considered

parameters regarding soil disturbance on preserved properties,

                                 34
the agency has not, to date, exercised its statutory authority

to promulgate any relevant standards regarding the nature and

extent of soil disturbance that is allowable for the purposes of

greenhouse construction and other construction projects.8     As

discussed above, the ARDA and the existing SADC regulation have

a dual purpose:   to strengthen the agricultural industry and to

preserve farmland.   Both are important goals; neither is

subordinate to the other.   To the extent that there may be

tension or conflict between those dual goals, there is no

indication in the history or language of the ARDA or the SADC

regulation that one goal should inevitably supersede the other.

Rather, the approach must be to balance farmland preservation

and strengthen the agricultural industry.

     The most relevant point of uncertainty for our discussion

here involves the construction of new structures for

agricultural purposes -- an activity that is expressly permitted

by the SADC regulation, N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(14).    Structures

are certainly a crucial component of agricultural operations,

such as livestock, dairy, equine, or greenhouse operations.

Some degree of soil disturbance will be incidental to the

construction of such structures.     Thus, while the SADC




8  During oral argument, counsel for the SADC relayed that the
agency had “undertaken internal review processes” but had “held
off doing anything pending resolution of this case.”
                                35
regulation categorically prohibits activities that “would be

detrimental” to soil conservation, N.J.A.C. 2:76-6:15(a)(7), the

regulation also authorizes owners of preserved farms to

undertake activities that, in effect, may alter the soil.       The

SADC has not provided any guidance on the degree or magnitude of

soil displacement that is actually permissible -- that is, the

scope of soil displacement that would rise to the level of being

“detrimental to the continued agricultural use” of the preserved

farmland.    Ibid.

        In sum, while owners of preserved farmlands are on notice

of the requirement to conserve the soil, they are left without

adequate direction on the tangible constraints on their

agricultural use of the land.    “Persons subject to regulation

are entitled to something more than a general declaration of

statutory purpose to guide their conduct . . . .”    Boller

Beverages, Inc. v. Davis, 
38 N.J. 138, 152 (1962).    Farmers are

entitled to “sufficiently definite regulations and standards” so

that administrative decision-making is fair and predictable.

Ibid.

        Nor is it the Judiciary’s domain to create guidelines

regarding the scope and nature of excavation and construction

activities permitted on preserved farmland property.    As the

agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of the

ARDA, and given its agricultural expertise, the SADC is in the

                                  36
best position to promulgate such guidelines.   See Bergen Pines

Cty. Hosp. v. Dep’t of Human Servs., 
96 N.J. 456, 474 (1984)

(stating that agencies are delegated authority to promulgate

rules and implement policy because they have “the staff,

resources, and expertise to understand and solve those

specialized problems”).   If the SADC fails to undertake the

necessary rulemaking to establish guidance on the extent of soil

disturbance that is permissible on preserved farms, then it can

expect administrative due process challenges to its enforcement

actions.   It is only the extreme nature of this case that saves

the present enforcement action.

                                  D.

     Finally, we find no merit in Quaker Valley’s civil-rights

claim.   Under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, 
N.J.S.A. 10:6-1

to -2, the party alleging a claim must show a violation of a

substantive right or that someone “acting under color of law”

interfered with or attempted to interfere with a substantive

right.   
N.J.S.A. 10:6-2(c).   As the trial court found, the

SADC’s efforts fell fully within its statutory mandate.    The

SADC simply sought an enforcement action because it determined

that Quaker Valley had violated the terms of the deed.    Nothing

in the record suggests that the enforcement action was a product

of nefarious State action or that the agency engaged in illicit

“threats, intimidation or coercion” against Quaker Valley.     See

                                  
37 N.J.S.A. 10:6-2(c).   As such, we affirm the Appellate Division’s

dismissal of the civil-rights claim.

                                VI.

     For the reasons expressed, we reverse the judgment of the

Appellate Division, which overturned the trial court’s grant of

summary judgment in favor of the SADC.   We affirm the dismissal

of Quaker Valley’s civil-rights claim.



     CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICES LaVECCHIA, PATTERSON,
FERNANDEZ-VINA, SOLOMON, and TIMPONE join in JUSTICE ALBIN’S
opinion.




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