Judge’s Rul­ing on Law­suit Will De­ter­mine the Fu­ture of Mon­mouth Mall

The Jewish Voice - - NEW JERSEY -

Af­ter two full days in court, Su­pe­rior Court Judge Lisa P. Thorn­ton de­cided to hold off and not de­liver her rul­ing on a law­suit, which wants to over­turn the zon­ing that is needed for the re­de­vel­op­ment of the Mon­mouth Mall, di­rectly af­ter clos­ing ar­gu­ments were made on Tues­day, Au­gust 15.

Thor­ton said she will give her opin­ion on the suit in writ­ing and de­liver it later in the week.

Ean­town’s at­tor­ney An­drew Bayer, who in his clos­ing ar­gu­ment re­quested that law­suit against the bor­ough and its gov­ern­ment be dis­missed, said, "She (Thorn­ton) didn't say when. Some­times the court calls, some­times the court mails it out."

Ref­er­enc­ing the ac­tions taken by the bor­ough to adopt the zon­ing or­di­nance, Bayer said, "The record shows that the bor­ough en­gaged in a very pub­lic process, it went above and be­yond what was re­quired by law."

Ac­cord­ing to App.com, “Four Ea­ton­town residents saw it dif­fer­ently. Ju­dith M. Bret­zger, Sara Bres­low, Eve­lyn A. Guerra and Bar­bara De­neger filed a law­suit in Su­pe­rior Court Free­hold last Oc­to­ber seek­ing to over­turn Ea­ton­town's Or­di­nance 10-2016, known as the Mixed Use Re­gional Cen­ter Zone. The zone per­mits up to 700 apart­ments on the Mon­mouth Mall prop­erty and is crit­i­cal to the mall's own­ers – Kush­ner Cos. and Rouse Prop­er­ties – who are plan­ning a mas­sive re­design of the tra­di­tional shop­ping mall… Their law­suit ac­cused the bor­ough of spot zon­ing – that is show­ing fa­voritism to the mall owner when the bor­ough cre­ated the zone – and vi­o­lat­ing the Open Pub­lic Meetings Act, also known as the sun­shine law, when it adopted the zone. The suit also claimed the adop­tion of the zone was pro­ce­du­rally de­fi­cient be­cause the coun­cil didn't make a mo­tion be­fore vot­ing to ap­prove the zone at a Sept. 14, 2016, meet­ing.”

In his clos­ing ar­gu­ment, the plain­tiffs’ at­tor­ney Ed­ward F. Lin­ston Jr. said, "It was so ob­vi­ous it (the adop­tion of the zone) was done to ben­e­fit the Kush­ner or­ga­ni­za­tion and no one else.”

On Mon­day, Au­gust 14, Thorn­ton told the plain­tiffs that they had an “up­hill bat­tle” in con­vinc­ing her that the Open Pub­lic Meetings Act, also known as the Sun­shine Law, was bro­ken by the coun­cil when it passed the or­di­nance, which is a key ar­gu­ment for the plain­tiffs.

App re­ports, “The law is de­signed to en­sure that de­ci­sion-mak­ing gov­ern­ment bod­ies con­duct their busi­nesses in pub­lic. The zon­ing or­di­nance was adopted at a pub­lic meet­ing in which an overflow crowd of about 50 or more peo­ple was di­rected to the fire­house ad­ja­cent to Bor­ough Hall to watch a live feed of the meet­ing on a tele­vi­sion screen af­ter the 130-per­son ca­pac­ity Coun­cil Cham­bers was filled by mem­bers of the pub­lic.”

The build­ing in which the crowd was over­flow­ing to watch the hear­ing, residents say, made it very hard for the pub­lic to par­tic­i­pate.

On Tues­day, Thorn­ton said, "There's noth­ing be­fore me that would in­di­cate that this was any­thing but good gov­ern­ment. Folks can think there is a con­spir­acy when the ball doesn't roll their way."

Re­gard­ing the spot zon­ing claim, Thorn­ton did not make it as clear which side she was on, but she did say that since the plain­tiffs did not bring in an ex­pert to tes­tify on the is­sue, it would be hard to find in their fa­vor.

Re­gard­ing the new de­sign plans for the mall, real es­tate developers Kush­ner and Rouse are plan­ning a mixed-used re­tail and res­i­den­tial cen­ter. In 2018, is when the developers hope to start con­struc­tion.

Kush­ner Com­pa­nies is owned by Jared Kush­ner’s fam­ily. Jared in both Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's son-in-law and his se­nior ad­viser.

In Fe­bru­ary 2016, con­cepts for the mall’s re­design were first pre­sented to the pub­lic by Kush­ner Cos. In April 2016, a zon­ing change that would al­low for 800 apart­ments and a ho­tel was re­jected by the bor­ough coun­cil.

On Septem­ber 14, 2016, the zone was rewrit­ten and ap­proved by the coun­cil. The new ver­sion elim­i­nated the ho­tel and cut the num­ber of per­mit­ted apart­ments down to 700.

This past May, Rouse was brought in as a new part­ner on the pro­ject by Kush­ner Cos.

"She (Thorn­ton) didn't say when. Some­times the court calls, some­times the court mails it out."

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.