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Construction is well underway for "Edgecomb Homes" which will be an expansion of Lakewood's Oak and Vine neighborhood.

This Subdivision which was approved by Lakewood Township's Planning Board on May 5, 2020, is to be completed in 2 phases, and includes paving Edgecomb Avenue out to Argyle Avenue, and Argyle Avenue from Wadsworth Avenue to Clyde Avenue, and constructing a total of 19 duplexes (38 housing units) and a Rabbi's residence/ shul.

Each housing unit will have 4 tandem stacked parking spaces. The new pavement along Edgecomb Avenue will receive sidewalks in front of all the new houses. Argyle Avenue will receive sidewalk along its western side.

The main sanctuary of the shul is 797 sq feet which is just below the 800 sq feet threshold for when Lakewood Township begins to require parking for shuls, however, the applicant graciously agreed to provide 9 off-street parking spaces.⁣

The board conditioned the application on providing in front of the shul a concrete walkway which will be designed in a way that allows pedestrians to walk without impediment of parked cars.⁣

Township ordinances require 5% of land area of approvals of 25 or more units to be preserved as common open space or shall be dedicated to active recreational or community facilities. The applicant's engineer explained that the applicant shared a portion of the costs of the pocket passive walkways in the adjacent Oak and Vine neighborhood and they therefore requested a waiver from providing open space. The Board happily granted this waiver.

These days, the only noise on this construction site is from construction activity. However, this wasn't always the case. There is quite a "noisy" history as to how this development came to be - and it all started because Lakewood's Township Committee decided for no reason at all to vacate a road and then to give it to a developer.

Back on February 3, 2005, Lakewood's Township Committee adopted an Ordinance vacating a portion of Nassau Avenue between Wadsworth Avenue and Audobon Avenue. Prior to this vacation, this unimproved 50 foot right-of-way, which is 475 feet long, was owned by the Township, so with the road vacation, the public right-of-way was extinguished and it became Township property.

Of course, the Township had nothing to gain by vacating this right-of-way, but we'll get to that soon.

On February 17, 2005, Lakewood Township's Committee, held a public auction where they sold several parcels of land along Oak Street.

All of these parcels were offered at prices substantially well below market value, because they were being sold specifically for schools, and in fact the Township included a strongly worded deed restriction to restrict the property to a school use.

Prior to the auction, Township Attorney Steven Secare made clear to all prospective buyers the conditions of the below market value auctions, which were that the property is to be used for "educational purposes only", that no further subdivisions of the property were permitted, that construction must begin by October 31, 2008 and be completed by October 31, 2010, that it can only be sold after 15 years to another public or non-public school, and that there is a reverter clause that if the buyer ever violates any of these restrictions, the property reverts back to the Township and the buyer loses all money paid.

Parcel 7 was Block 1011, Lot 1, Block 1012, Lot 1,
Block 1013, Lot 1. It was 3.76 acres and the minimum bid was $76,320.

Rabbi Meir Hertz, representing Tashbar of Lakewood, and Rabbi Yehuda Shain came forward to bid. The bids kept going higher and higher. Finally, Rabbi Hertz was declared the successful bidder at $450,000.

Parcel 9 was Block 1017, Lot 1, Block 1024, Lot 2. It was 6.43 acres. The minimum bid was $54,180.

Rabbi Meir Hertz, representing Tashbar of Lakewood, and Rabbi Yehuda Shain came forward to bid. The bids kept going higher and higher. Finally, Rabbi Hertz was declared the successful bidder at $710,000.

[Consider this amazing point: Rabbi Hertz paid a combined $1,160,000 for these 2 parcels. Had Rabbi Shain not bid against him, he would have paid $131,320 for these 2 parcels!]

The deeds - with the deed restrictions - for both of these parcels were filed with the Ocean County Clerk in September 2005. It was signed by then-Mayor Charles Cunliffe and Rabbi Herz.

The meets and bounds legal descriptions included in the deed for Parcel 9 specifies that the sale includes "portions of the following 50 foot right-of-ways (paper streets), Halsey Street, Edgecomb Avenue, and Nassau Avenue".

Construction did not begin by October 31, 2008, so, under the terms of the 2005 deed restriction, the properties should have reverted back to the Township and the buyer should have lost all money paid. Curiously, the Township never bothered to seek to enforce its own court-filed deed restriction.

On February 21, 2012, under the name Meon HaTorah Rabbinical College, an application was presented to Lakewood's Planning Board for a school and planned planned educational campus, which were to be built in six phases.

The lots of the application were Block 1012 Lot 1.02, Block 1017 Lot 1, and Block 1024 Lot 2. Part of the building and improvements were to be constructed over the vacated portion of Nassau Avenue between Wadsworth Avenue and Audobon Avenue which the Township deeded over to Tashbar in 2005.

Attorney Abraham Penzer on behalf of the applicant represented that the first phase is for two school buildings (a three-story yeshiva college/high school, two dormitory buildings and a three-story K-8 elementary school) with associated parking and recreation facilities. The second phase is for 2-six unit campus housing buildings. The third phase is for 7-four unit and 1-six unit campus housing building. The fourth phase is a 5-four unit and 4-six unit campus housing building. The fifth phase will be a 3-four unit campus building. The sixth phase will be the pool to complete the recreational area.

No proposed simcha hall was ever mentioned. Additionally, no explanation was given how housing for an Educational Campus could be proposed on land which was sold with a deed restriction that it is be used "for educational purposes only".

Either way, one yeshiva building for Tashbar was constructed. The Rabbinical College and educational campus housing was never constructed.

Subsequently, developers got busy planning for the adjoining "Oak Street Corridor" (which was the original name for the Oak and Vine neighborhood). Several of the parcels were sold by the Township at public auctions.

Some of these parcels included the blocks and lots adjacent to Block 1017 Lot 1, and Block 1024 Lot 2 which is the parcel that Tashbar purchased in 2005. According to these property owners, their land sales included the eastern half-width of the vacated portion of Nassau Avenue (i.e. they understood that half of the width was sold to Tashbar and half of the width was sold to them). Accordingly, they designed their plans to pave Nassau Avenue between Edgecomb Avenue and Audobon Avenue.

When the property owners adjoining this block of Nassau Avenue submitted their plans to the Planning Board, and Tashbar received notice of their application, they realized that those plans included constructing half the width of Nassau Avenue - the very same block which the Township already sold to Tashbar.

They immediately checked the records to see how it was possible that the adjoining property owners held a claim to Nassau Avenue and they were astonished to learn that after Township sold the entire vacated portion of Nassau Avenue to them in 2005, the Township "resold" its eastern half, which is 475 feet long, to the 4 adjoining property owners.

In March 2017, Tashbar, represented by Attorney Rob Shea filed a lawsuit seeking a restraining order to stop construction on the vacated portion of Nassau Avenue (now formally known as "the disputed area") and to quiet the title to all lands conveyed to it.

The lawsuit was filed against the Township as well as its 4 adjoining property owners, Vine Properties, AMT Investments, Wadsworth Properties, Edgecomb Duplex LLC, as well as Shmuel Waldman, First Commerce Bank, Amboy Bank, who are the holders of the mortgages of those properties, and New Jersey American Water, who has an easement along the disputed area.

The lawsuit quickly filled the court docket.

On March 21, 2017, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Francis Hodgson signed a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining any work activity or submission of any land use application in the disputed area.

Defendant Aaron Mansour of AMT Investments moved to modify the TRO on the basis that only a portion of his property is located within the disputed area, while the TRO also restrained him on the rest of the block which was not in dispute.

Subsequently, Mr. Mansour acknowledged that when he did due diligence prior to purchasing his land he noted that "there was an issue regarding the second half of the vacated portion of Nassau Avenue" (inasmuch as Tashbar claimed full rights to it) and he agreed to give up his rights to the disputed property and settled his portion of the lawsuit out of court.

In October 2017, Tashbar filed an Amended Complaint adding Kenneth Garzo, another adjoining property owner as an additional defendant.

Meanwhile, the adjoining property owners Vine Properties, Wadsworth Properties, and Edgecomb Duplex LLC, filed a counter-claim against their title companies, Stewart Title Guaranty Company, Old Republic National Title Insurance Company on the basis that they should have seen this deed issue during their title search prior to permitting the sale to go through.

The Township filed an Answer to Tashbar's amended complaint, as well as to the adjoining property owners counter-claim, denying all allegations, and claiming they were not negligent, and breached no duty to any party or non-party to this lawsuit.

On December 13, 2017, First Commerce Bank reached an out court settlement with Tashbar.

On January 12, 2018, Kenneth Garzo agreed to give up his rights to the disputed property and settled his portion of the lawsuit out of court.

On March 16, 2018, Tashbar filed a Motion for Summary Judgement.

Vine Properties, Wadsworth Properties, and Edgecomb Duplex LLC responded with Opposition to the motion, arguing that Tashbar did not own the entire width of Nassau Avenue, rather it only owned half of the width of the road.

The property owners' motion noted that the Township's Notice of Public Land sale and Tashbar's deed stated that it included a "certain portions of the vacated Halsey Avenue, Edgecomb Avenue, and Nassau Avenue" - not the entire width.

The property owners further charged that Tashbar was actually the party at fault for including the entire width of the vacated portion of Nassau Avenue in their Planning Board Site Plan even though they never owned that land.

The property owners also sought legal fees and damages from Tashbar and the Township due to the restraints on their construction caused by the lawsuit.

On May 11, 2018, Judge Hodgson heard oral arguments on Tashbar's Motion for Summary Judgement, and granted it in its entirety, declaring for all to hear that Tashbar is the rightful owner of the entire disputed area and all subsequent deeds were declared to be faulty.

Judge Hodgson did not make any decision regarding the Defendant's (and now Third Party Plaintiffs vs the Township) claim for monetary damages and legal fees.

On June 8, 2018, Vine Properties, Wadsworth Properties, and Edgecomb Duplex LLC filed a Motion to declare the Granting of Summary Judgement to be "final" so it could then be appealed to the Appellate Division.

The property owners explained that the Summary Judgement granted Tashbar a decision regarding their title, but it did not grant them a decision regarding their demand from the Township for monetary damages.

The property owners seeked to Stay the court's decision (which would, in the meantime, prohibit Tashbar from building on the land) which would permit them to appeal to the Appellate Division for monetary damages caused to them by the Township conveying to them faulty deeds after they already conveyed the disputed area to Tashbar.

On June 15, 2018, Amboy Bank reached an out court settlement with Tashbar.

On July 31, 2018, Stewart Title Guaranty Company reached an out of court settlement with their Plaintiff's, adjoining property owners Vine Properties, Wadsworth Properties, and Edgecomb Duplex LLC.

Old Republic National Title Insurance Company filed a Motion to get dismissed from the lawsuit. Their Plaintiff, Edgecomb Duplex LLC did not oppose the motion, and allowed them to get dismissed.

As such, the only remaining parties to the Lawsuit were Tashbar, the adjoining property owners Vine Properties, Wadsworth Properties, and Edgecomb Duplex LLC, and the Township.

Miraculously, on August 2nd, 2018, all parties came to a global settlement - thanks to a major concession by the Township.

The settlement noted that, by granting Summary Judgement on May 11, 2018, Judge Hodgson already declared Tashbar to be the rightful owner of the disputed area, and the only remaining claims are Tashbar's and the property owners demand from "all remaining parties" (i.e. the Township) for their monetary damages.

In consideration of all parties and in a desire to settle the matter, the Township agreed to release Tashbar from the conditions of their 2005 deed restriction (which restricted their development to "educational purposes only"), and Tashbar agreed that although their property could fit 55 units, they would not build right in back of their school and they would therefore reduce the scope of their development to a maximum of 40 units.

It seems that although Tashbar did not receive monetary damages from the Township, they gained because they got released from their "for educational purposes only" deed restriction (without needing to now pay the full value of restriction-free land!) and they got clearance to build 40 houses on property which no one else could claim belongs to them. The Township gained because it didn't need to pay for all the monetary damages all the property owners were claiming they caused.

What exactly did the property owners receive in this deal??

One could say that the property owners accepted the settlement because they figured they would anyways not win any monetary damages in court. However, this doesn't seem to be their thought process as they did seek court approval for a final ruling with a stay in enforcement so they could drag the Township to the Appellate Division to claim monetary damages there...

In any case, this settlement is what eventually paved the way for the 38 housing units of Edgecomb Homes! (Under a separate application, 2 additional units were approved, getting to the total 40 units which were included in the settlement.

Quite an interesting history, no? And it all started because the Township Committee decided to vacate a public right-of-way for no valid reason at all.

[Fun fact: The story doesn't end here. This lawsuit actually led to yet another lawsuit.

In August 2017, Attorney Rob Shea withdrew from representing Tashbar and Attorney Jaimee Katz Sussner took over representing Tashbar - apparently because failed to make payments for their legal representation.

On September 3, 2019, Mr. Shea filed a lawsuit against Tashbar for Breach of Contract, unlawful non-payment of services rendered, and Breach of Implied Contract / unjust enrichment. Mr. Shea claimed that Tashbar owed him unpaid legal fees $88,384.75 since October 2017, and demanded judgment for damages, restitution, attorney’s fees, filing fees, interest, cost of suit and any other relief the Court deemed just.

On January 8, 2020, after failing to answer the lawsuit, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Craig Wellerson issued a default judgment against Tashbar, for $88,384.75 and post- judgment interest. Mr. Shea filed the default judgment as a lien against Tashbar.

On April 24, 2020, after Tashbar still did not pay the bill, Judge Wellerson issued a Writ of Execution which ordered the Ocean County Sheriff to levy funds from Tashbar's bank accounts and "satisfy the judgment out of the personal property of the debtor, and if sufficient personal property can not be found then,.. out of the real property belonging to the debtor..."

On October 16, 2020, a sheriff's officer did just that - he located a bank account at Chase Bank owned by Tashbar and levied against it. The grand total of the bank account balance: $4,357.04.

On December 8, 2020, after Tashbar still did not submit any other payment, Judge Wellerson signed an order directing the Sheriff to turn over the levied funds to Mr. Shea.

Finally, in February 2021, Tashbar paid up the balance of the debt, thus satisfying the judgment.]

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