BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In a continuation of the lawsuit between Advance Realty and Bridgewater Township, the former filed a motion for partial summary judgment to get final site plan approval for the grocery store and hotel at the Center of Excellence site, on Route 202/206.
According to a release from the township, the goal of this action is to do this without being required to submit additional documentation to the planning board or go back for an additional final site plan hearing.
Mayor Matthew Moench commented on the filing.
“In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is apparent, now more than ever, how important pharmaceutical research, development and manufacturing is to our country,” he said. “New Jersey, especially towns like Bridgewater, have been the bedrock of that industry. It is the time to step up as a community, as a state and a country to revitalize those properties which can serve as the home for revitalizing and augmenting these industries.”
According to a notice filed with the court by attorney Kevin Coakley, Advance Realty is seeking summary judgment on counts one and three of the complaint based on the township not disputing any of the facts presented to the court in a previous filing.
The Center of Excellence, which was approved for Route 202/206, is actually 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.
Although the resolution was memorialized at the end of February, litigation is ongoing.
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 extention, 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.
The request for partial summary judgment in the case is on counts one and three, seeking automatic approval for the part of the application that requests final site plan approval for the hotel and grocery store. In the filing for the judgment, Coakley indicated that the planning board’s decision to not grant final approval for the two entities conflicts with its initial site plan approvals.
“The planning board’s last minute decision to withhold final site plan approval for the hotel and grocer is also contrary to the site plans that the board approved because those plans designate the hotel and grocer as within the portion of the development that received final site plan approval,” he said in the statement.
Moench said it is time for the township and Advance Realty to work together for the best interests of Bridgewater.
“It is time for the developer to consider what is in the best interests of Bridgewater, New Jersey and the county by working with us to create a plan that protects this vital resource and puts it to work for all of our collective interests,” he said.
“Instead, the developer continues to try to force upon us a site plan the community does not want,” he added. “They are seeking to circumvent the land use process to get the supermarket that they want as opposed to one the community can accept after thorough and proper planning board review. The landscape has changed dramatically since the redevelopment plan was first conceived, and I ask the developer to work with us on a new plan that looks at and fits the needs of our community today.”
A response to the motion is due on May 5, and a decision is expected about one month later.