BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In a letter to representatives from Advance Realty, Bridgewater Township Mayor Matthew Moench requested the payment to the township of more than $26,000 in escrow fees owed from the application process.
During hearings before the planning board, experts were brought in to speak on information presented by the applicant, representing the township in the proceedings. Those experts are paid for by an escrow account handled by the applicant.
Moench addressed back payments of that account in a letter regarding the lawsuit filed by Advance Realty about the memorialization of the resolution for the approval of the Center of Excellence application.
“The township is in receipt of your company’s lawsuit, which is a waste of everyone’s time and money,” Moench said in a letter to Peter Cocoziello, of Advance Realty. “I’m sure it is your preference that our new planning board attorney not have sufficient time to review the resolution prepared by your attorneys and the Hayes Administration’s planning board attorney, however, this planning board, this administration and our professionals will not be impeded from doing our diligence on behalf of our residents.”
Instead, Moench said, he would like to see Advance Realty fulfill its obligation of paying outstanding escrow fees in the amount of $26,969.39.
“That money is required by the planning process and reimburses the township’s professionals for work done directly related to the Center of Excellence project,” he said in the letter. “Your company has been reminded of this obligation through both emails and phone calls by township staff, and yet your company has still failed to comply.”
“It is our hope that you will do the right thing and withdraw your frivolous lawsuit, pay the required escrow fees,” he added in the letter.
Representatives and attorneys for Advance Realty did not respond to request for comment on the escrow fees.
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 filed by the applicant Jan. 31, 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.
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.