LAKE TERRACE CHARGES FORTH WITH RETALIATION LAWSUITS - AGAINST EASEMENTS AND CATS

As previously reported here (https://www.faanews.com/2022/08/back-in-court-judge-to-lake-terrace-if.html)

and here (https://www.faanews.com/2022/09/judge-is-lakewood-township-showing.html) on FAA News, Lake Terrace is currently embattled by multiple lawsuits filed by their industrial park neighbor Clayton Associates which assert that they never received Township Zoning Board approval for the use of their banquet hall and concert hall.


Lake Terrace is now showing Clayton Associates what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the deal.


In November 2021, Sudler Lakewood LLC which owns properties adjacent to Lake Terrace, presented an application to the Lakewood Planning Board for a Minor Subdivision of their single property into 4 separate lots for financial reasons (to renegotiate their mortgage). This would typically be a very routine matter for the Board, as the applicant is not seeking to construct anything or to make any changes to the site, but rather to draw an imaginary line through the lot so they can renegotiate their mortgage.


However, this application was anything but routine.


Attorney Ron Gasorowski objected to the application on several issues.


Mr. Gasorowski told the Board that he was representing "Lake Terrace and Bnos Brocho who are neighbors of the Sudler property".


The existing single lot currently has access directly onto Towbin Avenue. By subdividing this lot into 4 lots, some of the new lots (which, by the way, are mainly unusable due to wetlands) will no longer have access directly onto a street, therefore, the applicant seeked to provide easements across the lots for cross-access so they could continue to cut the trees and maintain the wetland property.


Mr. Gasorowski claimed that "easements" are not "permitted uses" under Lakewood Township's zoning ordinances and therefore this application required a Use Variance which only the Zoning Board - and not the Planning Board - could grant.


Furthermore, Mr. Gasorowski argued that the legal notice published by Sudler was insufficient as it did not disclose that the application required a Use Variance.


Mr. Gasorowski further argued that, under state law, only the Zoning Board has jurisdiction to approve a Subdivision where the new lots would not front a "street", and in this case, by approving this Minor Subdivision, the Planning Board would be approving a Subdivision where the new lots would not front a "street".


Additionally, Mr. Gasorowski argued that the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law prohibits Municipalities from issuing construction permits for structures on lots which do not abut public streets, and by approving this Minor Subdivision, the Board would be creating lots upon which, the Township would not be permitted to issue construction permits.


The Board noted that the only issue they had with the application was that the Township zoning ordinances require a sidewalk in every Subdivision application, whether for a major development or for a Minor financial matter.


In response, the applicant agreed to install a sidewalk as a condition of the Minor Subdivision approval.


The Board then approved the Minor Subdivision application.


Subsequently, in January 2022, Mr. Gasorowski, on behalf Lake Terrace, filed a lawsuit against the Planning Board and Sudler.


In the Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs, Mr. Gasorowski reiterated the arguments he presented at the Planning Board hearing, and claimed that the Board's approval of the Minor Subdivision was "arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable" as it "failed to consider and apply important planning and zoning principles and requirements".


On February 28th, Attorney Jonathan Epstein of Faegre Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP on behalf of Sudler filed an Answer simply denying all allegations.


On March 8th, Attorney Jilian Mcleer of King, Kitrick, Jackson, McWeeney, and Wells, LLC on behalf of the Lakewood Planning Board filed an Answer denying all allegations and also claiming in affirmation that Plaintiffs’ complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted; the claim set forth by plaintiffs is not a proper subject of equitable relief; and furthermore, relief should be denied due to the "unclean hands doctrine".


The unclean hands doctrine applies to cases where the plaintiff has acted unethically in connection to the circumstances that have led to the suit. Its intent is to keep a person from abusing the justice system in order to benefit from a situation they created by acting in bad faith.


On March 11th, after reviewing all documents filed in the case, Judge Ford notified all parties to submit Pre-trial Memos (1-2 pages stating just the factual arguments at stake) by April 25th, and that a Pre-trial Management Conference would be held on May 2nd.


All parties filed Pre-trial Memos on time, by April 25th. Mr. Gasorowski also submitted as evidence a transcript of the Planning Board hearing.


On April 19th, Sudler's attorneys served Mr. Gasorowski with a Notice of Frivolous Lawsuit and Demand for Voluntary Dismissal. The notice placed Mr. Gasorowski on notice that Sudler deemed the entire lawsuit as a meritless complaint, solely for the purpose of harassment and delay.


Sudler's attorneys noted that already at the Planning Board's public hearing, their professionals already explained clearly why Lake Terrace's claims were meritless, yet, "they (Lake Terrace) egregiously continued to advance the flawed contention that the Board acted without jurisdiction... This scheme of interchangeable objectors was undoubtedly intended to stymie Sudler's good faith efforts to obtain necessary land use approvals from the Board and subsequently create protracted litigation in retaliation for the unrelated lawsuits brought by Defendants."


"Plaintiffs acts of vengeance have harassed Sudler, as well as delayed the perfection of Defendant's approvals, caused the incursion of substantial attorneys' fees and costs of suit, and severely hindered Sudler's ability to secure funding. These unjustified harms were the foreseeable consequence of Plaintiff's decision to pursue this meritless cause of action," the letter continued.


The notice concluded by placing Mr. Gasorowski on notice that he previously represented Sudler on their other land use matters, and he therefore received confidential information from them. This gives him a conflict and he should recuse himself from the matter. If he does not recuse himself immediately, Sudler will make an application to the court for disqualification.


The May 2nd Pre-trial Management Conference was rescheduled for May 9th.


At the Conference held on May 9th, Judge Ford entered a Pretrial Order that set the Plaintiff's Trial Brief due on July 11th, the Defendants Trial Brief due on August 8th, the Plaintiff's Reply due on August 18th, and the trial date for August 30th.


July 28th arrived with still no trial brief from Mr. Gasorowski - 2 weeks after the deadline. At that point, Sudler filed a motion seeking for Judge Ford to dismissed the case against them defendants with prejudice due to the plaintiff’s failure to timely file its trial brief, or at the very least, to seek an extension of time to file its trial brief. 


"Plaintiffs lack of attention to a lawsuit it initiated should not prejudice our client who is, in fact, prejudiced by the mere continued pending of this case - which is nothing more than 'an improper attempt to create protracted litigation as a retaliatory measure for the ancillary disputes between the parties' - as this litigation has delayed Sudler’s ability to perfect its approved subdivision and secure financing," Attorney Anthony R. Todaro wrote to Judge Ford.


Later that same day, Mr. Gasorowski wrote to the court that he was out for a medical procedure and he requested a two week extension to file his trial brief.


On August 5th, Judge Ford held a Scheduling Conference, and rescheduled the deadline of submission of the Plaintiff's Trial Brief to August 25th, the Defendants Trial Brief on September 22nd, the Plaintiff's Reply due on October 3rd, and the trial date for October 6th.


As previously reported here on FAA News (https://www.faanews.com/2022/08/board-attorney-lake-terrace-is-meddling.html), Lake Terrace charged on when Sudler returned to the Planning Board to seek an extension to their Minor Subdivisiod. Typically an extremely routine matter, however, in this case, Lake Terrace retained Attorney Jan Meyer who tried telling the Board that they should deny this extension because "Sudler is suing the Township" (as parties to the Lake Terrace and Bnos Brocho lawsuits).


Planning Board Attorney John Jackson responded that it appeared to him that the owners of Lake Terrace were "meddling" in this very minor extension simply as "retaliation" against Sudler.


The Board then approved the extension.


From the fact that Mr. Meyer represented the matter at the Lakewood Planning Board, and that the court trial was delayed, that Lake Terrace was either withdrawing completely, or that Mr. Gasorowski was recusing himself from the matter.


But not anymore.


Mr. Gasorowski has now filed a 45 page Trial Brief, completely ignoring Sudler's Frivolous Litigation claim and their conflict of interest.


Sudler's trial brief is due later this month.


This is not the only retaliation lawsuit filed Lake Terrace against Sudler.


In August 2021, Lake Terrace filed suit against Clayton after they discovered that there were 3 structures in Clayton's parking lot which appeared to contain cats. Apparently, cat breeding is not a permitted use under the Township ordinances.


Lake Terrace claimed that these cats were a nuisance to them and their patrons, and may have even been a fire hazard, as well as a health and safety risk given the potential for diseases. They further claimed that they were concerned about animal cruelty as the crates did not contain heating or cooling capabilities.


Prior to filing the lawsuit, Lake Terrace notified Township Officials as to the "Health Code violations" taking place, and miraculously, in under 24 hours, the police department and inspection department responded to investigate. A manager for Clayton advised that they were aware and they were attempting to get a third party to remove the cats. As the Township did not do any further enforcement, Lake Terrace filed suit seeking injunctive relief to restrain Clayton from having any cats on their property until the proper health department inspection could take place.


Not surprisingly, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Frances Hodgson tossed the case right out.


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