Government

Cranford Township Committee Disputes Results of Court Hearing with Hartz Mountain at Public Meeting

3070781a64f69a9c2613_DSCN1555.JPG
Transcripts provided to TAPinto Cranford show that the motion filed by the township to extend its immunity from affordable housing obligations was granted to a certain extent, but partly denied. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
08b4fec2250a8a9c0397_DSCN1556.JPG
Transcripts provided to TAPinto Cranford show that the motion filed by the township to extend its immunity from affordable housing obligations was granted to a certain extent, but partly denied. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna
74d4fbc05d87b9ee1362_Screen_Shot_2017-09-26_at_9.18.41_PM.jpg
Documentation provided by Hartz Mountain shows that Cranford's motion was denied. However, the Township maintains that their motion was granted to a certain extent.
1d4696f83d63d7f42b49_Screen_Shot_2017-09-26_at_9.18.54_PM.jpg
Documentation provided by Hartz Mountain shows that Cranford's motion was denied. However, the Township maintains that their motion was granted to a certain extent.
3070781a64f69a9c2613_DSCN1555.JPG

CRANFORD, NJ – A heated exchange took place during Tuesday night’s Cranford Township Committee meeting between the commissioners and representatives from Hartz Mountain regarding the outcome of the township’s recent court hearing to extend its immunity from the Mt. Laurel Doctrine.

According to the Cranford Township Committee, the township's motion was granted, thereby automatically denying Hartz’s motion to intervene.

“Last week the township was in Superior Court on its motion to amend its current Mt. Laurel immunity, and Hartz’s motion to intervene in that action,” Township Attorney Ryan J. Cooper said in a released statement. “The township is pleased to report that its motion was granted and Hartz’s motion was denied. While the Court did not grant the township all of the relief it sought, the Court reiterated that the township has immunity from Mt. Laurel lawsuits through the end of 2018. As the public is aware, the next day Hartz contacted the Township and requested that its redevelopment request be adjourned until at least October 24. I’ll emphasize that this adjournment pertains only to Hartz’s redevelopment request, not its application before the Planning Board. Overall, the township is very pleased with the outcome of the motion and the hard work of our outside counsel on the motion.

Sign Up for E-News

“Going forward, the township will amend its second-round Mt. Laurel plan through the Court process and will develop a plan to satisfy its third-round obligation, which will require Court-approval once it is ready. The township intends to fairly consider what role the 750 Walnut Avenue property should play in the township’s Mt. Laurel plan. The township remains committed to including the public’s input in its consideration of any potential redevelopment of the 750 Walnut Avenue site, and will advise the public accordingly.”

However, Hartz representative Jay Rhatican said the township's motion was denied and that Hartz’s motion was denied because it was rendered obsolete by the ruling.

“I was surprised to hear the committee say that the town’s motion has been granted,” Rhatican said. “I was in court that day and what I heard is the motion was denied. In fact, we have a court order that was on the motion that we had filed to intervene. That motion was of course denied as moot because the township’s motion also was denied.

I’ll read from it here: ‘Hartz’s motion to intervene was denied as moot as the township’s motion to amend round-three judgment purported of compliance is also denied,’” Rhatican read aloud. “I think we have a very obvious difference of opinion as to what the court said that day and is reflected in the court order.”

Mayor Thomas Hannen replied to Rhatican, saying the court documents will soon be available on cranford.com.

“I believe we are going to be making the transcript available on the web,” Hannen said. “I’m sure, even though I’m not an attorney, that that’s why we have an attorney, to argue the fine points.”

“I don’t see what fine points there are to discuss,” Rhatican said. “We’re happy to make the transcripts available to anyone who wants them as well.”

Documentation provided by Hartz Mountain shows that the motion was denied.

However, according to the court transcripts provided to TAPinto Cranford, the court granted the motion to the township to a certain extent. On page 28 of the transcript, Judge Camille M. Kenny stated that she grants the township’s motion only as to round two. She did not let the township go forward with a motion on its third-round obligation.

Hartz’s request should be considered by the township in its third-round obligation, she said.

As of now, the township continues to be granted the immunity that was previously established, which lasts until December 31, 2018. The next step requires the township to prove that they are meeting their affordable housing obligations through its own methods.

“We have to prove that our plan still meets our second-round obligation, even though the distribution of units in town is slightly different than it was envisioned to be in 2013,” Cooper said.

In simpler terms, the township’s current affordable housing plan was drafted in 2013 and includes 360 units on the Birchwood property. Since the township purchased the property and decreased the number of units, it must replace those units elsewhere. The court must approve those changes to further extend the township’s immunity.

As such, the township’s motion was partially granted and partially denied, as confirmed by commissioner Ann Dooley. 

“I took a look at the orders,” Dooley said. “I am a lawyer; it was exactly what I expected to see. Each side submitted a nice, typed, formal order to the judge. She crossed them both out with her own pen where she fastened her own result in handwriting, which is a little hard to read. That’s why it’s incredibly important that as soon as we post those orders and the transcript, you read them so you can understand what went on and what the true intent of the judge’s decisions were that day. Please remember there were multiple motions and applications that she had to fit together like a zipper and lock them up. I think you’ll all be more confident once those things are posted.”

However, multiple residents attending the meeting were upset by the differences between sides and questioned the transparency of the township committee and of Hartz Mountain.

“I was a little bit disturbed by Mr. Rhatican’s assertation,” resident Eric Rubinson said to the committee. “It’s disturbing to me that there were such drastic differences as to what came out of that courtroom. Without transparency, I think it creates an environment for speculation on this conversation, and you have enough of that right now.”

The commissioners were quick to dismiss claims that they are not transparent. Prior to last week’s hearing, a Q & A with Hartz Mountain was placed on the agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting, Deputy Mayor Patrick Giblin reminded the audience. It was postponed at Hartz’s request last Wednesday.

“Keep in mind it was Hartz Mountain’s decision to delay our decision on this redevelopment,” Giblin said. “Many of the questions that you’re asking tonight were questions we were planning to ask them about proving to us that they had exhausted all efforts to keep the property zoned as non-residential. I get a sense that there’s a little bit of surrender and that [you think] it’s inevitable. It is not. There is much that Hartz Mountain has to demonstrate when they return on Oct. 24 or later.”

Documentation provided by Hartz Mountain can be viewed above. Township officials said they will upload documentation, including the transcripts, to the website shortly.

TAPinto Cranford will continue to update the story.

The court records, including the transcript, can be viewed here and here.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Cranford

Union County Democratic Committee Elects New Chair

February 22, 2018

CLARK, NJ – The vote for the Union County Democratic Committee (UCDC) chairmanship came to a conclusion Wednesday night when 748 committee members from the county’s 21 municipalities descended on the Gran Centurions in Clark to vote for their new party leader.

State Senator Nick Scutari won with a 412-341 victory over Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr in a battle that had become ...

Filthy, dangerous conditions, theft and assault alleged at recently-opened Newark shelter

February 13, 2018

Newark, NJ—Antoinette Jackson, Sonya Webb and Andrea Eaddy sit in a McDonald’s on a cold winter morning, not far from the homeless shelter they currently call home.

During the day, they count on places like McDonald's to stay warm. They must leave the shelter at 7 a.m. and can only return after 4 p.m., even when temperatures drop below freezing.

When the ...

Clark's CityMD Urgent Care Shares Flu Survey

CLARK, NJ - As flu season is in full gear and the probability of catching the flu is a real concern, a majority of Americans admit to taking actions that may contribute to the spread of this highly contagious virus.  According to a recent survey, roughly three out of five Americans who have had the flu or flu-like symptoms (61%) admitted to being out and about the last time they ...

Cranford Endorses Colleen Mahr

February 19, 2018

Mayor Colleen Mahr has been a valuable friend to the Township of Cranford. Whether it’s offering advice and assistance during devastating flood cleanup, supporting the Mayor's Council on the Rahway River, or her insight and assistance in meeting our affordable housing obligations--Mayor Mahr is always there for Cranford.

Colleen’s fairness and integrity is beyond reproach.

Union County Hosts First LGBTQ Roundtable

February 24, 2018

On Tuesday, February 20, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, through the Office of LGBTQ Services, hosted a roundtable with over 20 leading LGBTQ advocacy and ally organizations that serve Union County and New Jersey. Facilitated by Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality, more than 40 participants met to discuss LGBTQ-related programs, services, issues and ...

Cranford Police Blotter: Multiple Drug-Related Arrests & More

February 20, 2018

The information provided does not represent the total scope of police activity. Individuals charged as a result of police investigations are merely an accusation. All defendants should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

1. 02/14/2018 @ 2226 hrs.

Raritan Road and Coleman Avenue

Arrested: Kevin Johnson, 60, Plainfield

Arrested by: Jason D’Agostino

Charges: Possession of ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

The Definition of Insanity

February 21, 2018

Dear Editor:

There is a quote, attributed to various people, including Albert Einstein that states, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, that is fitting for our current election for Union County Democratic Committee (UCDC) chair.

There is no shortage of polling data related to the functioning of our Federal, ...