DEVELOPER SUES LAKEWOOD PLANNING BOARD FOR TRYING TO GET HIM TO INSTALL CUL-DE-SAC

A developer has filed a lawsuit against the Lakewood Township Planning Board for denying an application after the developer refused to install a proper cul-de-sac bulb on East 8th Street.


Back in 2014, the Lakewood Township Planning Board approved a row of houses along East 8th Street. At the urging of the then-Board of Fire Commissioners, the Planning Board stipulated that the developers build a turn-around at the end of block. Mysteriously, the Board Engineer turned a blind eye to this stipulation, and permitted the homes to get built despite their being no provision for the turn-around.


Sometime last year, Joseph Bitton filed a new application to build 6 duplex houses on the other side of East 8th Street on the site of the former Greenwald Caterers commercial kitchen.


As soon as plans for these new duplexes across the street were first presented to the Planning Board last spring, many neighbors on the narrow and long block took to the podium to demand that the Planning Board not grant approval for additional duplexes unless the developer provides a proper cul-de-sac bulb, noting that there were 2 fires on the block over the past few years and it was practically impossible for emergency vehicles to get in and out of the block safely.


In response, Graham MacFarlane, the developers' engineer testified the New Jersey Residential Site Improvements Standard (RSIS) which governs the rules for cul-de-sac bulbs, does not require a proper cul-de-sac bulb in this case because most of the road was developed prior to enactment of the RSIS in 1993.


Despite this testimony, and due to pressure from the neighbors, the Planning Board denied the application, instead sending the developers back to the drawing board to provide for a proper cul-de-sac bulb.


On May 24, the developer returned to the Board with a plan to provide either a hammer-head turn-around or an undersized cul-de-sac bulb, testifying that either proposal is fully compliant with both township and state standards.


The developer told the Planning Board that the Fire Chief and Police Department have reviewed the plans and that they are satisfied with either a hammer-head turn-around or an undersized cul-de-sac, eventhough school buses can only fit on full sized cul-de-sacs.


Board Engineer Terry Vogt urged the Board to approve the application with either a hammer-head turn-around or an undersized cul-de-sac.


Despite all this testimony, due to continued urging of the neighbors, the Planning Board again stood their ground, and denied the application, despite the possibility that the developer might appeal the denial in state court.


That possibility has now become a reality.


Mr. Bitton has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to overturn the Board's denial of the application.


The Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs, filed today in Ocean County Superior Court by Attorney Adam Pfeffer, argues that the application was a permitted use in the zone and variance-free, thereby making it a by-right application, and therefore the Board's denial of the  application was "arbitrary, unreasonable, and capricious".


Lakewood Township's taxpayers will fund the legal fees incurred by the Planning Board to fight the lawsuit.


The plaintiff is also requesting that his own legal fees be reimbursed by the Township taxpayers.


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