FLEMINGTON, NJ - Ongoing litigation over the Union Hotel redevelopment was addressed at Thursday's borough council reorganization meeting, with many hoping for a settlement soon.
Litigation targeting the borough has remained unsettled for months, and redeveloper Jack Cust and Flemington Urban Renewal LLC cannot move forward until it is resolved.
The plan to redevelop the Union Hotel and surrounding properties received final approval from the planning board in 2018.
But the property has been mired in litigation, with suits having been filed by Friends of Historic Flemington, a non-profit group of citizens, professionals, business and property owners who advocate for the adaptive reuse of the borough's historic buildings as critical components of a properly scaled downtown redevelopment, according to the organization's website.
During her state of the borough address Thursday, Mayor Betsy Driver said the Courthouse Square redeveloper has made several offers at compromise on the size and scale of the Union Hotel redevelopment.
"Despite this, the project remains mired in lawsuits," she said. "Sadly, the more the redeveloper compromised, the more the plaintiffs seemed to want."
Driver said the borough went from 78 Main Street being threatened with demolition to it being incorporated into the project itself. The height, she said, has been reduced on all four street elevations.
"I have, and will continue to, encourage the plaintiffs to make their settlement offer public so the entire town can understand what it really is they are after," she said. "The plaintiffs, since sending the settlement offer in late summer, have refused to make their settlement letter public by calling it confidential."
Driver said she believes they can actually move forward if everyone is clear and public about their goals.
Desires for an end to the litigation was echoed by council members and the public alike during the meeting.
"I share the position that the Friends group should release the letter, and see what we can do with regard to the suits to move forward," said councilman Michael Harris. "We said in 2018 that we can take control of the project if we look at the last consensus."
John Gorman, who did not seek re-election to the council this year after more than 30 years of serving the borough, said he believes it is time for the borough to go on the offensive.
"This is costing us $650,000 a year that we could be collecting," he said. "Every year we take a loss on the taxes."
Gorman said he believes it is time for the borough to counter-sue and get things moving forward.
Pressure was building in the final months of 2019 for the Friends to settle, including from the Flemington Community Partnership, which launched an online petition to seek the public's support for a negotiation to settle the lawsuits that are preventing the project from moving forward.