BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Advance Realty has responded to a brief filed by Bridgewater Township in a continuation of the lawsuit regarding the Center of Excellence.
The Center of Excellence, which was approved for Route 202/206, is the former Sanofi Aventis site. As approved in December, it will include 400 rental apartment units, plus retail shops, restaurants, a hotel and a supermarket on a plot of almost 62 acres.
The application for the project, which received pushback from a sizable portion of the public during a series of planning board meetings, was ultimately approved by the planning board in December. Advance Realty then filed a lawsuit at the end of January concerning the planning board not immediately memorializing the resolution for application approval, which had been pulled from the agenda for the board’s Jan. 28 meeting.
On March 11, Advance Realty filed an amended complaint with the court.
Count one, according to the document, declares that the planning board failed to act on the application’s request for final site plan approval by 120 days after the completed application was filed, plus an extension, to Dec. 10, 2019.
The second count states that the planning board’s decision to withhold final site plan approval for the hotel and grocery store pending final drawings is unsupported by the record before the board, and is arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.
In count three, Advance Realty said there is no requirement by the township’s ordinance for the applicant to provide detailed floor plans for the application, but the applicant did. The plaintiff said they are not required to give further site plans, so, based on that evidence, they are entitled to final site plan approval.
Count four, according to the documents, is requesting judgment against the township planning board for failing to memorialize the resolution within 45 days of the application approval.
In a brief to the court at the beginning of October, the township alleged that the plaintiff misreads and misrepresents proceedings that have no bearing on the question of whether the board had the authority to force Advance Realty to provide additional plans for the hotel and grocery store.
The brief said the purpose of the litigation as a whole is unclear.
In a response to the township, Advance Realty submitted a brief stating that the planning board’s statement was filled with factual and legal errors, and fails to provide any basis to defeat judgment. The plaintiff stated in the brief that it has now been 804 days since the board had determined the application was complete, but no decision has been rendered on the request for final site plan approval, even though that is required within 120 days.
“This suit is unfortunately still necessary because, to date, the board has not acted to grant or deny final site plan approval for the hotel and grocer, which has prevented plaintiff from moving forward with the project,” Advance Realty said in its response. “For example, the failure to grant final approval for the hotel and grocer buildings, which are the keystones of the predominantly commercial development, has prevented plaintiff from entering into a redevelopment agreement with the township in order to proceed with the entire predominantly commercial development.”
“No redevelopment agreement can be executed for any part of the project that does not have final site plan approval,” the brief added. “Thus, the board has stopped the project.”
The brief said that the court should side with Advance Realty on count one because the township planning board has not granted or denied final site plan approval, and indicated they should be granted judgment on counts two and three because the plaintiff has responded to the board’s comments and provided all necessary architectural plans.
“Plaintiff’s architect also presented extensive testimony concerning the architecture of the hotel and grocer, as well as the architecture of all buildings in the predominantly commercial development for which final site plan approval was sought,” the brief said. “The board still cannot explain why it was reasonable to effectively deny this significant application, involving hundreds of thousands of square feet of redevelopment, because the interior plans for the grocer did not show where the bathrooms and manager’s offices were located.”
The next trial date is scheduled for Nov. 2.