BACK IN COURT: JUDGE TO LAKE TERRACE "IF YOU CAN'T FIT ALL CARS IN YOUR OWN PARKING LOT, MAYBE YOU SHOULD BUS THEM THERE"

As previously reported here on FAA (https://www.faanews.com/2022/08/its-now-court-order-judge-prohibits.html), there has been an ongoing year-and-a-half long legal land use saga regarding the famous Lake Terrace wedding and concert hall in Lakewood which began after Clayton Associates, an industrial neighbor, filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down Lake Terrace after discovering that Lake Terrace never received Township Zoning Board approval to build a wedding hall.


Clayton Associates and their property owner Sudler are being represented by Toms River Attorney Rob Shea. Lake Terrace is being represented by Red Bank Attorney Matthew N. Fiorovanti. Greenwald Caterers is being represented by Toms River Attorney Jerry Dasti (fun fact: He is also the Lakewood Township Zoning Board attorney). Lakewood Township, who is being sued in order to enforce its zoning ordinances, is being represented by Toms River Attorney Danielle Rosiejka.


After an initial injunction hearing on the matter, on February 3, 2021, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Marlene Ford signed an Interim Order permitting Lake Terrace - pending the outcome of the lawsuit - to continue hosting weddings, but with certain restrictions including limiting the occupancy to 712 seated guests, barring any outdoor activities or events on the banquet hall property, and requiring all parking to be maintained on-site only.


Judge Ford signed this Order as a interim compromise to permit Lake Terrace to continue operating while the lawsuit continues, but with restraints.


In December 2021, Clayton Associates filed a separate lawsuit seeking to ban all concerts at Lake Terrace on the basis that Lake Terrace never received Township Zoning Board approval for a "concert hall". Superior Court Judge Craig L. Wellerson then ordered that concerts are not to be held at all at Lake Terrace. (The concert hall issue was deemed differently than the banquet hall issue as the Township never issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the concert hall, therefore Lake Terrace had no legal standing to retain that non-permitted use).


At some point during the ensuing drama, Lake Terrace made an application to the Zoning Board for a Use Variance so they could finally seek legal approval for their banquet hall. While their application was pending they filed a motion asking the judge to declare the lawsuit moot on the basis that "this site is now in the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board". In response, attorneys for Clayton filed a motion seeking to shut down Lake Terrace completely until - if, and when - it receives Zoning Board approval.


Judge Ford denied to declare the lawsuit moot, yet she also denied to shut down Lake Terrace completely, rather, she said that Lake Terrace would be permitted to continue to operate as a banquet hall with the February 3, 2021 restrictions, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. A short while later, Lake Terrace "mysteriously" withdrew their appliance from the Zoning Board.


At the same time, Greenwald Caterers filed a motion asking Judge Ford to dismiss them from the case. Judge Ford denied this motion.


Over the past few months, claiming that Lake Terrace and Greenwald Caterers have violated the February 3, 2021 Order, Clayton Associates has cranked things up by making several additional attempts to get Judge Ford to shut down Lake Terrace completely.


On March 16, 2022, Lake Terrace filed a motion to modify the February 3, 2021 order to permit them to host outdoor events. Lake Terrace's attorney explained that, as the summer was coming up, the banquet hall wanted the option to host outdoor chuppah's.


In response, on April 6, 2022, Clayton filed a Cross Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights, seeking to uphold the February 3, 2021 order. Clayton advised the judge that, on March 2 (which was Lag Baomer), in violation of the February 3, 2021 order, Lake Terrace held an outdoor Lag Baomer event. Clayton complained that there was a lot of overflow parking onto the local streets and neighboring parking lots, all in violation of the February 3, 2021 order. Clayton seeked to have the judge declare Lake Terrace to be in contempt of court, shut them down, and order them to pay legal fees and fines.


At the motion hearing, Lake Terrace's attorney explained very innocently that Lake Terrace had "no knowledge" of the Lag Baomer event held in their parking lot and that they had never rented out their parking lot for that event.


Judge Ford declined to grant the Cross Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights, and she didn't shut down Lake Terrace, however, she also declined Lake Terrace's motion to modify the February 3, 2021 to permit them to host outdoor chuppah's.


The judge did however, state clearly that, "if there is no compliance from these parties and there is a continuation of just bending this order of the court, then I will entertain a motion to shut them down and to order monetary sanctions".


In June 2022, attorneys for Clayton again cranked things up a notch with a Motion to Enforce Litigant's Rights, claiming that Lake Terrace has continued to violate the court orders by hosting events with so many people and cars that parking overflowed off-site. They also alleged that the condition of "no outdoor events" was violated after an outdoor chuppah was held in the street while police shut down the road.


In the moving documents they reminded the judge of her earlier warnings and they asked the judge to shut down Lake Terrace completely.


At the hearing held on Friday July 8, attorneys for Lake Terrace and Greenwald Caterers vehemently downplayed "the issues" and beseeched the judge not to take a draconic move of shutting down their business because of "something that someone else did" saying that move would bankrupt them. 


They also noted that Lake Terrace had just recently filed a new application to the Zoning Board to finally seek Use Variance relief for weddings and concerts. In response, attorneys for Clayton argued that Lake Terrace has "been there, done that" already and we can't trust that they will actually go forward with their application, as last year they withdrew their application without actually presenting it to the Board.


Judge Ford ultimately denied the motion to completely shut down Lake Terrace, but found them in violation of the court order, ordered them to pay a $5,000 sanction as well as legal fees incurred by Clayton as a result of filing their motion.


(As previously reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/08/judge-ordered-lake-terrace-to-pay-26000.html), the legal fees incurred by Clayton as a result of filing their motion was a whopping $26,233.75!)


Judge Ford also warned that her permitting Lake Terrace to continue to operate with certain conditions was a "compromise" and that the owners of Lake Terrace have reciprocated by acting in "the ultimate lack of good faith" and therefore she is "one second away from revoking their Certificate of Occupancy" (which would shut them down completely).


Judge Ford also ordered that no further outdoor events or gatherings of any sort at all take place outdoors within 1,000 feet of Lake Terrace.


The full Order, drafted by Attorney Shea states that:


"the February 3, 2021 Order shall remain in full force and effect, and is hereby clarified as follows:


1) There shall be no outdoor events held on or around the property or on adjacent properties or roadways. This shall include any and all events ancillary to or associated with any events which are taking place inside the banquet hall.


2) All parking is to be limited to the parking lot at 1690 Oak Street. There shall be no parking for events taking place on the property allowed on the adjacent streets, including but not limited to Oak Street or Paco Way or in the surrounding private parking lots.


Ordered that KBS and Lake Terrace are to make any and all parties hosting, attending, or otherwise involved in any and all events, including but not limited to, caterers, organizers, event contractors etc., aware of the above restrictions."


Immediately after this proposed Order was circulated, and prior to the judge actually signing it, attorneys for Lake Terrace and Greenwald Caterers submitted letters begging the judge not to sign the Order as proposed, noting that the Township Committee has not adopted any ordinance prohibiting parking along these roads. They even went so far as to claim that "only the Township Committee can regulate parking along their roads" and that it is "not up to the judge to make such a restriction".


Curiously, Township officials used taxpayer funds to jump on the bandwagon on behalf of Lake Terrace, and dispatched their attorney Danielle Rosiejka to also submit a similar letter to Judge Ford.


Despite all this opposition, on August 10th Judge Ford signed the above order as drafted by Mr. Shea.


On July 20th, just mere couple of weeks after the July 8th hearing, - and prior to the August 10th signing of the latest Order, Clayton Associates filed yet another Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights seeking to completely shut down Lake Terrace.


In this latest filing, attorneys for Clayton provided photos and videos from their surveillance camera footage showing that, just 2 days and 4 days after the July 8th hearing, Lake Terrace hosted events with parking overflowing onto both sides of Corporate Road West, "creating a dangerous situation in that a truck driving down the road was forced to drive extremely slowly and carefully to ensure it did not side swipe any vehicles." Clayton also claims that banquet hall patrons illegally parked in their property parking lots as well as at Bnos Brocho which is also a violation of the court order.


Clayton further claimed that one Lake Terrace patron who parked in Clayton's parking lot urinated in their parking lot when he returned to his car. They claimed that also they don't actually see that in their security camera footage, they can "audibly hear it just out of the camera's view".


Attorney Shea emphasizes in his motion filing that "simply ordering monetary sanctions against Lake Terrace is insufficient as they just received a monetary sanction at the last hearing and yet, 'here we are here again'". As such, Mr. Shea's proposed order is that "any and all Certificates of Occupancy are hereby revoked;" and that the Defendants are to "immediately cease all activity on the property located at 1690 Oak Street until such time as they have received all requisite, non-appealable, approvals and complied with all conditions thereof".


Attorney Shea also noted in his motion filing that attorneys for Lake Terrace have previously told the judge that they already filed an application to the Zoning Board and that they will "seek to expedite their application", however, since then, "we haven't seen any progress in getting the Zoning Board to hear this application any sooner."


Mr. Shea further demanded that the Court find Lake Terrace in violation of the court order, and order monetary sanctions and legal fees.


On August 1st, prior to the judge's August 10th signing of the order which clarified that indeed on-street parking - despite not being prohibited by the Township - was prohibited for Lake Terrace patrons, Attorney Fiorvanti responded with a letter in opposition to the motion, claiming that it was unfairly filed while the parties were waiting for written clarification from the judge as to whether or not on-street parking was indeed prohibited for Lake Terrace patrons, and therefore the parking violations were not actually violations of the court order.


Mr. Fiorvanti wrote in his letter "it appears that Plaintiffs believe that the court has barred Defendants 

from continuing to have such events. Not so. The February 3, 2021 order allows Defendants to continue to [operate] subject to certain conditions. It appears that Plaintiffs also believe that one of those conditions 

is “no traffic.” Not so. The February 3, 2021 Order allows events with up to 700 patrons to take 

place. It should not come as a surprise that with such large events, there 

will be traffic congestion. But every time there is a traffic jam on Paco Way or Corporate Road 

West does not mean that Plaintiffs can run to court and accuse Defendants of violating the February 

3, 2021 Order.  Yet that is precisely what Plaintiffs continue to do.


"The court should not confuse the sheer number of applications or the number of pages 

submitted by Plaintiffs with an actual meritorious application. There is no evidence that 

Defendants violated the conditions of the February 3, 2021 Order through the events held on July 

10 and 12, 2022. Having a lot of traffic—well after business hours—does not constitute any such 

violation", the letter continues.


Mr. Fiorvanti also responded to the trespass/parking and urinating allegations saying "there is nothing that Defendants could have done to prevent these actions by an unknown person. Even assuming such conduct constitutes a violation of the February

 3, 2021 Order—which it does not—such conduct cannot be attributed to Defendants and cannot

 justify granting Plaintiffs’ motion to enforce litigant’s rights. It is simply out of Defendants’

 hands if some unknown individual decides to ignore no-parking signs, trespass onto Plaintiffs’

 property and then urinate."


At Friday's hearing, on-street parking was the hot topic of the day.


Attorney Shea opened by reminding Judge Ford of her previous warnings that if "there is no compliance from these parties and there is a continuation of just bending this order of the court, then I will entertain a motion to shut them down and to order monetary sanctions".


Mr. Shea further reminded Judge Ford that Lake Terrace never got a Zoning Board approval for a banquet hall, nor do they have an actual Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for a banquet hall, all they have a CO for is a "school with assembly hall", and that despite this assertion from their initial injunction hearing, under the February 3, 2021 order, the judge permitted them to continue to operate pending the outcome of the lawsuit, but with certain restrictions.


Mr. Shea then reiterated all of his previous assertions of Lake Terrace's alleged violations of the February 3, 2021 order, arguing that "the violations are clear, and not subject to anyone's interpretation".


Mr. Shea then emphasized that despite the judge going so far as to enforce monetary sanctions, the owners of Lake Terrace "are completely unfazed. They simply do whatever they want. They only want to stay open for their economic growth. Penalties are not enough as they do not care about penalties.  They are the essence of "bad faith". Short of completely shutting this place down, nothing will make them adhere to the court's orders."


Mr. Fiorvanti then took to podium. He reminded the judge that "this banquet hall employs people and has been operating for more than a decade with no complaints until now. The judge did grant interim permission to hold events with up to 700 people, and any events with that many people will definitely have some traffic congestion at times.'


He then pointed out that although Clayton filed the instant motion following the July 8th oral hearing when the judge stated that on-street parking was prohibited, it was filed prior to August 10th when the judge actually signed the last order clarifying that on-street parking was indeed prohibited, and that until the order was signed the Defendants were waiting for this clarification, therefore, this was not a "willful violation" of the court order.


Mr. Fiorvanti then took the opportunity to completely relitigate the matter of whether or not the judge even had the authority to restrict this parking, claiming that it would "infringe on the police department's authority".


He emphasized to Judge Ford that the Township does not prohibit this on-street parking, so how could the police department enforce such a court order?


"We can not enforce no on-street parking or tow cars. We can only post a sign on our parking lot directing patrons to only park in our lot", he stated.


Mr. Fiorvanti also mentioned that Lake Terrace has, once again submitted a Use Variance application to the Zoning Board and that a special meeting will be held for this application on October 23rd. He stated that this meeting could not be held in September simply because "the Board chairman is unavailable in September". (Fun fact: The Zoning Board is actually holding a meeting on September 12th).


Attorney Jerry Dasti also argued that there was no violation of the previous court orders, "we are in complete compliance with your orders. We should be allowed to park on the streets just as anyone not attending an event at Lake Terrace can park on the same streets. Deny the motion and stop Clayton's harassment."


Judge Ford asked that "if there are no more than 700 people at the events and there are 379 parking spaces, and it's 2 people per car, why is the parking lot not sufficient?"


Mr. Fiorvanti innocently responded "I do not know".


Judge Ford retorted, "if the real plans for this use were ever presented before the proper land use board, the Board probably would have required additional parking."


Judge Ford then addressed the attorneys' arguments that only the Township could enact on-street parking restrictions and that she lacked such authority, with the following retort: "if that is correct then what authority do I have at all?"


Judge Ford then clarified "I am not trying to put anyone out of business or enact any special parking ordinances as indeed I do not have authority to enact parking laws. Rather I am simply attaching restrictions on the operation on this banquet hall. I do have authority to shut the place down, but, instead of shutting them down I will permit them to remain open but with this condition restricting on-street parking".


Judge Ford then reiterated "parking on-street is prohibited. Parking can only be in their parking lot. If there is not enough parking in their own lot, maybe they should bus in the guests."


Judge Ford then noted that the original school that was approved by the Zoning Board in 2005 was a not-for-profit, but this Lake Terrace banquet hall is a commercial entity, and therefore, in conjunction with the on-street parking conditions, they must hire "uniformed security guards, who are current or former law enforcement officers, employed by a professional businesses that provide traffic control or is otherwise experienced in traffic control" - adding that they must be knowledgeable in local parking ordinances and not "just someone who slaps on a vest". The judge specified that they need to hire 2 officers per 100 guests for a total of 14 officers if they have 700 guests.


Attorney Danielle Rosiejka who was at the hearing representating the Township of Lakewood asked what specifically the judge wanted the police department to do here. Judge Ford responded that Lake Terrace will need to cordon off access to the Plaintiffs' parking lot at 1650 Oak Street with cones to prevent unlawful parking in the lot, and that the police department shall be required to investigate any complaints received regarding obstruction of the roadways and/or illegal parking in adjacent private parking lots.


Judge Ford then issued her decision:


"It seems to me that the simple response now would be to completely shut them down. However, I do note that while they never got any land use board approval for a banquet hall, this use has somehow been in existence for over a decade.

"At the injunction hearing back at the end of 2021, rather than shut them down completely, I allowed them remain open but with imposition of certain restrictions. I will now continue to permit them to operate pending the outcome of the lawsuit, but I will expand and clarify the restrictions."


The judge then signed the following Order:


1. There shall be no outdoor events held on or around the Property, or on adjacent properties or roadways. This shall include any and all events ancillary to or associated with any events which are taking place inside the banquet hall.

2. Defendants shall erect signage directing all parking on their lot for events. All parking is to be limited to the parking lot of 1690 Oak Street. There shall be no parking for events taking place at the Property allowed on the adjacent streets, including but not limited to Oak Street or Paco Way or in any surrounding private parking lots.

3. The Defendant Township shall be required to investigate any complaints received regarding obstruction of the roadways and/or illegal parking in adjacent private parking lots.

4. The KBS Defendants shall be required to obtain uniformed security officers or retired law enforcement officers for the purpose of directing traffic into the 1690 Oak Street parking lot, ensuring that there is no unlawful parking on the surrounding properties, and maintaining proper traffic circulation.

5. The KBS Defendants shall further be required to cordon off access to Plaintiffs' parking lot with cones to prevent unlawful parking in the 1650 Oak Street parking lot.

6. The KBS Defendants are to make any and all parties hosting, attending, or otherwise involved in, any and all events, including caterers, organizers, event contactors etc., aware of the above restrictions.

This Order shall supplement and clarify the order of this Court entered on August 10th, 2022.


For those keeping track, Judge Ford did not address the balance of Clayton's motion which was for the Court to specifically find Lake Terrace in violation of the court order, and order monetary sanctions and legal fees.


Shortly after the court hearing, Mr. Shea submitted a letter to the judge for written clarification on the balance of their motion.



join a FAA WhatsApp Group, click here: https://chat.whatsapp.com/GePyRrAaRYWJTZeYtUAoL7


To join the FAA WhatsApp Status, click here: https://wa.me/17328065488?text=%20Subscribe




No comments:

Post a Comment