FLEMINGTON, NJ - The borough has been the target of another lawsuit filed by Friends of Historic Flemington, a development Borough Council has not revealed in its open sessions.
If the suit filed in Hunterdon Superior Court is upheld, the redeveloper agreement that involves the Union Hotel would be invalidated.
Resident Lois Stewart and property owner Gary Schotland are also parties to the suit filed on their behalf by attorney M. James Maley, Jr. The suit describes Friends of Historic Flemington as a “group of citizens, professionals, business and property owners concerned about Flemington’s historic buildings and historic district.” The suit was filed against the borough, Borough Council and Mayor Phil Greiner “in his official capacity.”
The suit challenges the borough’s redeveloper’s agreement with Jack Cust’s Urban Renewal, LLC, the entity Cust established for the Union Hotel redevelopment project, yet the suit acknowledges that they’ve been “told as of the date of filing” that it has not yet been signed.
The suit contains six counts, most of which allege that Borough Council exceeded its authority and didn’t follow state rules governing land use and redevelopment agreements.
Council’s effort to expand the area in need of redevelopment beyond the original plan that included the Union Hotel – to include additional properties on Bloomfield Avenue and Spring Street – exceeded its authority, according to the suit. Instead, it argues that officials should have pursued a “quasi-judicial process” before the Planning Board relying on “substantial evidence,” which is a legislative function.
The suit also claims Council exceeded its authority by agreeing that Cust would pay the borough’s costs associated with designating the additional properties an area in need of redevelopment, and that it can’t seek to use eminent domain over properties not already designated as an area in need of redevelopment or part of a condemnation redevelopment area.
Under the redeveloper’s agreement, the Cust plan would have “one technical review” to be conducted by the “borough and its professional staff ... on behalf of the borough and Planning Board,” the suit states. But it argues that’s a violation of state rules that require such a review be done by a Planning Board or Board of Adjustment and that others are “not legally permitted” to perform that function.
The suit also challenges a provision in the agreement that “does not limit the owner to construction of only the uses in the current redevelopment plan,” but allows it to be amended. It calls Council “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious” because the redevelopment agreement states the Borough was unaware of any notice asserting its non-compliance with state rules, yet Maley states he previously notified the borough attorney of “many ways” the agreement violates state rules.
The suit was filed last month.