By Ron Hine | FBW | July 7, 2015

The questionable lower court rulings granting automatic approvals for the Monarch Towers development have been appealed. Briefs to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court are due in September from the developer, Shipyard Associates, and those opposing the project: the City of Hoboken, the Hudson Tea Building Condo Association and the Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW). The Hoboken Planning Board and Hudson County Planning Board will also be filing briefs defending their denials of the Monarch application. The Shipyard Associates proposed to build these towers on a pier at the north end of its ten-acre site after completing the 1160 units approved by the Hoboken Planning Board in 1997. The Planning Board approvals and the agreement Shipyard signed with the City required this pier to be built as open space, including a tennis court, a tennis pavilion and the connecting portion of the state-mandated public walkway.

An analysis by FBW’s legal team finds the legal arguments to be straight-forward and that the developer was bound by the agreement it signed with the City to provide open space as part of its approved Planned Unit Development. FBW lawyers believe that Judge Patrick Arre misconstrued the 2008 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling of Toll Bros. v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington when he decided in favor of the developer. Also, the automatic approvals granted in the lower court by Judge Arre and Judge Rodriguez represent an egregious disregard of due process of the law.

The developers of the Monarch project have also filed suit in federal court challenging the City of Hoboken’s amendment to its flood ordinance and corresponding zoning regulations that prohibit building residential and commercial projects on piers, over the Hudson River. In June, Shipyard Associates requested permission of the court to file a motion for summary judgment.  On June 25, federal Judge Falk denied this request stating that it would not consider any motions asking for a decision that might conflict with rulings by the state court, referring to the case now before the Appellate Division.

The passage of the Hoboken ordinances were guided by recent changes to state and federal regulations pertaining to the Coastal High Hazard Flood Zone that are designed to protect the public’s health and safety. The developer will have a difficult time convincing a federal court that it should be allowed to circumvent these ordinances and thus build a residential project over the Hudson River that potentially could put people in harm’s way. Discovery in federal court in the case of Shipyard Associates v. City of Hoboken is scheduled to continue through the end of this year, ending on December 28, 2015.

monarch rendering

Rendering of Monarch towers at Weehawken Cove.

Last November, the federal court allowed FBW to intervene in defense of the City flood ordinance. FBW is represented in this case by the Eastern Environmental Law Center and New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center (NJAPILC). Since it was founded in 1990, FBW has opposed building private projects on piers in that it privatizes a portion of the waterfront that should be preserved as public space. FBW will be represented in the consolidated litigation before the Appellate Court by Renee Steinhagen, the Executive Director of NJAPILC.

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