BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The applicant for the Center of Excellence has filed suit against the Bridgewater Township Planning Board after the latter failed to memorialize the resolution on the approval for the project at its Jan. 28 meeting.

The application for the project, which was approved by the planning board Dec. 10, was expected to be on the agenda for memorialization of the resolution of approval Jan. 28, according to the suit filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Somerset County, but was removed from the agenda at the last minute.

According to the suit, the applicant was informed early in the day Jan. 28 that the vote for memorializing the resolution would be adjourned, as the new attorney for the planning board, Mark Peck, was still reviewing the transcripts for the hearings. The planning board did not consider the memorialization of the resolution on Jan. 28, and Peck advised the applicant the following day that it was expected to be on the agenda Feb. 25.
State statute, the suit says, requires the memorialization of the resolution to be done within 45 days of the meeting when the approval was granted, but, as of now, the planning board has not done so.

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In the suit, the applicant is requesting that the court declare the planning board in violation of that statute. In addition, the applicant is looking for the planning board to consider a letter dated Jan. 24 that objects to certain elements of the memorializing resolution, and to adopt the memorializing resolution within seven days of the court's decision.

The letter submitted to former planning board attorney Thomas Collins – who was the board's attorney when the application was approved – requests some changes to the resolution and conditions being imposed by the planning board for approval. According to the letter, the memorialization resolution allows the planning board to withhold final site plan approval until a full architectural layout of the supermarket is released and architecture is finalized for the hotel.

The letter states that before the Dec. 10 meeting had ended, and approval granted, there had been no discussion by the planning board about withholding final approval for the grocery store and hotel. It says the planning board is not actually authorized to withhold final site plan approval based on more detailed floor plans of the two buildings.

Instead, the letter said, the applicant would like to have both preliminary and final site plan approval for the entire commercial section of the project, with conditions that the applicant should submit to the board's planner additional details about interior floor plans at the start of construction.

The applicant is also seeking attorneys fees and costs associated with the litigation.

The suit was filed with the courts Jan. 31. The Honorable Yolanda Ciccone is the judge assigned to the case, and Bridgewater Township has 90 days to respond to the filing.

The 110-acre Center of Excellence, on Route 202/206, was formerly the Sanofi Aventis site. The council approved a redevelopment ordinance several years ago that included plans for 400 rental apartment units, of which 10 percent would be affordable housing units.

The center is also slated to include on-site amenities ranging from retail shops and restaurants to a hotel and 80,000-square-foot supermarket.

Resident concerns over the year of hearings have mainly focused on traffic concerns with the addition of the development, as well as the issue of benzene under the property.