EAST HANOVER, NJ- East Hanover’s Land Use Planning Board meeting was packed with residents eager to make their opinions heard regarding an application by local land owner, Michael Zecca. This application would see a 20,000 sq ft warehouse built on 8 Merry Lane which sits in a preexisting residential area. With standing room only, a slew of legal minds present, and even a court stenographer brought in, this issue was set to reach a boiling point.
The application has been decried by the local community group “East Hanover Nightmare” who states on their website that “This is NOT in the best interest of the general welfare of the public. This development is purely PROFITS before PEOPLE and destroying the quality of life in a residential neighborhood.”
This message resonated with the community, spawning petitions, both handwritten and online, numbering in the hundreds. Their presence at the public hearing backed up these numbers, as the meeting room rocked with applause when objections to the application were brought before the board.
Givaudan Flavors Corp. of East Hanover owns the road, Merry Lane, where the proposed warehouse would be constructed. Nancy Lottinville, an attorney for Gibbons P.C. who is representing Givaudan, went up before the board and explained that the access the applicant is entitled to on Merry Lane is laid out in a specific access easement. This easement is a type of contract that is controlled by Givaudan and they must consent to any change to the contractual rights of the applicant to access the road.
According to Lottinville, the current easement has specific limits such as: that there are three residential lots which are conforming lots, that houses must be on the property, and where the driveways are located and how wide they might be. Based on the current agreement, the applicant does not have the access necessary to construct this warehouse, Lottinville said.
Lottinville declared to the board that “Givaudan has advised me to tell you that under no circumstance will it be altering the access easement.”
Rosemary Stone-Dougherty, who is representing Zecca, argued that they had been in negotiations with Givaudan over the access easement in 2015. It was their belief that Givaudan had put off making a decision until they knew that the Land Use Planning Board would even approve such a use of the property.
It was asserted by Stone-Dougherty that “this is a legal debate that is outside the jurisdiction of this board.” The application, which has been deemed complete by the townships engineering department on June 1st, did stipulate that the applicant would have to show that they would be able to provide the access for construction.
“Now that burden is on us.” Stone-Dougherty said. “Whether that means we have to litigate or that means we resolve whatever issues Givaudan has with this.”
According to Stone-Dougherty, the application has been completed with the stipulation that access would have to be attained. This would be a legal discussion outside of the board’s authority and separate from whether or not the board went forward with the application.
The board was not convinced. “The first thing we need to do is see whether or not we can move forward with this.” Land Use Planning Board Chairman William Salemme said. “Based upon the testimony from Givaudan’s council they are never going to give you access…I really think that issue needs to be clarified and clear and I think it should have been done well in advance of this evening.”
The board unanimously voted to postpone the vote on the application to allow the two parties time to resolve this issue. Another hearing has been set for September 8, where this issue will once again be brought before the public.