NEWARK, NJ - A superior court judge on Friday overturned a controversial city ordinance that allowed developments in the Ironbound to increase in height from eight to 20 stories.
PLANewark, a group that advocates for "smart" planning, and others filed suit against the Newark City Council, the city planning board and the city clerk last year. The suit alleged the ordinance that created the mixed-use residential/commercial high-density district - or MX-3 zone - in the Ironbound was inconsistent with the 2012 Master Plan.
The summary judgment from Superior Court Judge Patrick Bartels will make projects that were granted approval with the ordinance void.
“The City is obviously disappointed, and we are reviewing the decision to decide whether to appeal it or refile to clear up some of the technical issues,” city spokesman Frank Baraff said in a statement.
PLANewark spokesman James Powell said the summary judgment was granted in favor of his group and other plaintiffs because of a technicality: the city simply did not respond to the summary judgment today.
“We prefer that most importantly instead of going Downtown and correcting things on our own that residents are part of that decision making from the beginning,” Powell said. “And we’re optimistic that those are the main next steps.”
The other plaintiffs in the suit included Button Factory Condominium Association and three individuals.
Hundreds attended planning board and council meetings to defy the changes once they caught wind of the proposal. Still, the city council approved the MX-3 ordinance for the Ironbound last year.
Under MX-3, high-rise multi-family buildings are permitted and could reach 20 stories high. However, a high-rise multi-family development with an active ground floor used for commercial space could only have 12 stories.
Several lots east of Penn Station were targeted in the MX-3 area that was created in the Ironbound. While MX-3 zones are permitted in the 2012 Master Plan, PLANewark alleged it wasn’t allowed for that portion of the Ironbound.
The lawsuit also alleged the city clerk's office did not provide notice to property owners in the affected area that of a hearing on the ordinance before it passed. The plaintiffs also claimed the planning board didn't allow residents to publicly comment on the proposal either.
The judge on Friday ruled in favor of both those allegations.
Powell said the city council could technically bring about the MX-3 zone amendment for the Ironbound again, but that they would have to go through a much more "democratic" process to do that.
The ruling from the judge could put any project that was approved under the MX-3 amendment in jeopardy, including the 12-story residential development at 28-50 McWhorter St.