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Following a tense hearing on Friday, Ocean County Assignment Judge Francis Hodgson ruled that, despite allegations of violations of their court orders, Lake Terrace may continue to hold weddings pending approval of the Lakewood Zoning Board. However, their existing court ordered restraints will remain in place as Judge Hodgson denied a motion to reconsider and lift the court orders.

Lake Terrace has been embattled in litigation since November 2020 when their neighbor sued them for not having ever received Township Zoning Board approval for a banquet hall.

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.

At subsequent hearings, Judge Ford added additional conditions including that no further outdoor events or gatherings of any sort at all take place outdoors within 1,000 feet of Lake Terrace and that 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" to enforce the parking restrictions.

At one point Judge Ford asked, "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. Fiorovanti 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 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 has previously 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).

As previously reported here on FAA News, at one motion hearing, Judge Ford found Lake Terrace in violation of the court orders and ordered them to pay a $5,000 sanction as well as legal fees incurred by Clayton as a result of filing their motion.

Since that time, Lake Terrace has finally submitted an application to the Township's Zoning Board for a Use Variance to permit them to operate legally. However, their hearing has been cancelled numerous times due to legal objections raised by Sudler regarding the Board meeting notices.

As such, seeing that they may never actually get to a public hearing, as previously reported here on FAA News, Lake Terrace filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that their court orders, including sanctions and award of legal fees, should be stayed withdrawn or stayed pending the outcome of the Zoning Board hearing.

In response, as previously reported here on FAA News, Sudler shot back by slamming Lake Terrace with a Cross-Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights, seeking to completely shut down the banquet hall for numerous violations of their interim court orders.

The Cross-Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights alleges that at a number of recent weddings held at Lake Terrace, numerous patrons were parked along the adjacent roadways and in adjacent parking lots including the Plaintiff's parking lots - all in violation of the court orders.

They further allege that not only did the LCSW members - who are tasked with enforcing the parking restrictions - not stop patrons from parking as they please, they even directed patrons to park in other parking lots including Bnos Brocha's lot.

"The Defendant's deliberate non-compliance with the February 3, 2021 Order renders their actions unjustifiable and inexcusable. Due to their Defendant's repeated violations, as well as their ability and refusal to comply with same, the Court should find that Defendants are in willful and unjustifiable violation of said Orders, and the Court should once again impose sanctions against the Defendant's and issue an Order for attorneys fees."

Mr. Shea also asserted that Lake Terrace's motion to waive the court orders should be denied as "they failed to identify a single matter which warrants Reconsideration as every single one of their claims have already been considered and rejected by Juge Ford."

Mr. Shea also sought sanctions for violating the court orders as well as his legal fees for filing the Cross-Motion.

Attorney Matthew Fiorovanti Esq. representing Lake Terrace responded with a Reply Brief to their Motion for Reconsideration as well as Opposition to Sudler's Cross-Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights.

Mr. Fiorovanti wrote:

Plaintiffs suggest that Defendants’ motion for reconsideration is “suspiciously timed” and is nothing more than “thinly veiled forum shopping.”

Plaintiffs’ accusations are baseless, as this motion has been necessitated by Plaintiffs’ recent and repeated interference with KBS’s use variance and site plan application and is filed in the exact same forum.

As explained in detail in Defendants’ initial brief, Plaintiffs have done everything possible to frustrate and delay the public hearing on KBS’s application before the Board.

Defendants have spent significant sums in attempting to comply with the restrictions and in opposing Plaintiffs’ incessant—yet baseless—claims that Defendants have not complied.

Defendants have also spent significant sums in seeking to have the use variance and site plan application heard and in opposing Plaintiffs’ incessant efforts to prevent such hearing. In addition, Defendants’ business at Lake Terrace has been negatively impacted through the imposition of such arbitrary restrictions.

It is this delay, strategically extended multiple times by Plaintiffs, which has resulted in significant financial harm to Defendants, that has necessitated the instant motion for reconsideration. It is simply inequitable, unfair and financially harmful to force Defendants to continue to operate under the arbitrary restrictions while Plaintiffs continue to interfere with the scheduling of the use variance and site plan hearing. There is nothing “suspicious” about this timing.

Conspicuously absent from Plaintiffs’ voluminous submission is any direct rebuttal of the substantive arguments raised by Defendants regarding the impropriety of the arbitrary restrictions on the continued operation of Lake Terrace imposed by the court in the February 3, 2021 Order, the August 10, 2022 Order and the August 26, 2022 Order. Even more glaringly obvious, Plaintiffs completely ignore Defendants’ substantive arguments regarding the impropriety of the $5,000 sanction imposed in the August 10, 2022 Order and the $12,000 attorney fee award imposed in the January 30, 2023 Order.


• Plaintiffs completely ignore Defendants’ argument that the court did not find that Plaintiffs had satisfied the factors for any preliminary injunctive relief set forth in Crowe v. DeGioia, 90 N.J. 126 (1982)—in fact, Plaintiffs do not even cite the Crowe decision in their 58-page brief;

• Plaintiffs completely ignore Defendants’ argument that only the Township of Lakewood, and not the court, is authorized to impose zoning conditions or restrictions under the police power—in fact, Plaintiffs strangely quote, verbatim, the case law that supports this principle of law at pages 52-53 of their brief;

• Plaintiffs do not, and cannot, rebut the argument that the court did not find that Plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm in the event that Lake Terrace continued to operate without the conditions and restrictions randomly imposed by the court;

• Plaintiffs completely ignore Defendants’ argument that the court was not authorized to require Defendants to prevent people from parking on privately owned properties or public streets where parking is permitted—in fact, Plaintiffs’ only response to this argument is to label it as “arrogant” at page 50 of their brief; Plaintiffs completely ignore Defendants’ argument that the $5,000 punitive sanction imposed under the August 10, 2022 Order was improper because the court failed to comply with R. 1:10-2—in fact, Plaintiffs’ only response to this argument is to erroneously assert that the August 10, 2022 Order was a final, and not interlocutory order, despite the fact that all issues as to all parties have not been resolved in this case, which remains pending subject to the stay entered by the court; and

• Plaintiffs completely ignore Defendants’ arguments that the $12,000 attorney fee award imposed in the January 30, 2023 Order was improper on a variety of substantive grounds—in fact, once again, Plaintiffs’ only response to this argument is to frivolously suggest that the August 10, 2022 Order was “final."

This motion is necessary because it is now abundantly clear that Plaintiffs’ campaign will not conclude, but instead is being intentionally delayed as part of their war of attrition, multi-lawsuit attack against Lake Terrace. Plaintiffs are not interested in a fair decision on the merits - it will not favor them, and Defendants have incurred substantial, irretrievable monetary losses over the past two years complying with these rules unique to it and defending Plaintiffs’ costly attacks on multiple fronts. Indeed, whether or not the Court had the legal authority to shut down the hall at Plaintiffs’ behest is not the real issue before the court – the exact same arguments for that drastic and undue relief have been made and correctly rejected at least three times by this Court. The issue at hand is, instead, in choosing not to, was it appropriate for the Court to then create, impose and enforce unique legal duties on Defendants which precedent and local ordinances make clear simply do not exist.

This Court should reconsider its past orders as it cannot and should not be the legislator and enforcer of novel regulations which are contrary to long-standing existing law and applied only to Lake Terrace, especially when these new rules are made at the behest of a complaining neighbor with a vested economic interest in seeing his neighbor fail.

Additionally, the court failed to consider the substantial financial harm to Defendants as a result of the arbitrary restrictions. To award any injunctive relief, the court must balance the equities and find that such balance weighs in favor of imposing the requested injunction. When weighing the harm associated with the minor “nuisance issues” raised by Plaintiffs—which do not come close to meeting the irreparable harm standard—with the substantial financial harm suffered by Defendants as a result of the restrictions, the scales tip heavily against any injunctive relief. 

Reconsideration of these past restrictive orders is appropriate under these circumstances, and we urge this Court to end its foray into creating and enforcing local rules on such municipal matters as specifics of business signage, dictating where people may park or not park, or requiring the hiring of security personnel.

Rather than address these substantive arguments, Plaintiffs raise baseless procedural arguments regarding the “interlocutory/final” nature of the Orders, the applicable standard of review, and the timing of this motion for reconsideration. Plaintiffs also grossly misconstrue the procedural posture of this case and repeatedly denigrate the owners and operators of a long- standing and well-respected business in Lakewood that has never been accused of any wrongdoing of any kind. Yet Plaintiffs cannot, and do not, present any substantive response to demonstrate that the court lacked the authority to arbitrarily restrict the operations of Lake Terrace, sanction Defendants $5,000 without initiating the required summary proceedings, or award $12,000 in attorneys’ fees in the absence of an appropriate affidavit of services, any findings of fact or conclusions of law that such amount was reasonable. This court should reconsider the Orders to remove such restrictions and vacate the sanction and attorney fee award.

Plaintiffs subscribe to the theory that the best defense is a good offense. Rather than directly respond to the substantive issues raised in Defendants’ motion for reconsideration, Plaintiffs have filed a cross-motion to enforce litigant’s rights premised on weddings that took place at Lake Terrace over a month prior to the filing of the cross-motion. The court should view Plaintiffs’ cross-motion for what it truly is: an obvious tactical maneuver designed, yet again, to distract the court from the substantive issues raised in Defendants’ motion for reconsideration.

This Court should not be distracted enough by Plaintiffs’ repetitive and lengthy arguments to forget what is most important: the present and long-standing use of the Property by Lake Terrace has been that of a place for weddings, celebrations and other activities cherished by the local community for many, many years, run by law-abiding local Township residents, and is in no way injurious to the rights of the community such that legal action against it is warranted.

According to Plaintiffs, three “large events” took place at Lake Terrace on January 11, 16 and 18, 2023 - more than a month prior to the filing of the cross-motion - during which patrons parked along the public streets where parking is otherwise permitted and in Plaintiffs’ parking lot (well after normal business hours). Plaintiffs then speculate that simply because patrons parked on Plaintiffs’ property or along the public streets, Defendants must have “allowed” or affirmatively directed such patrons to park there. In the absence of any actual evidence, that is a bridge too far.

Plaintiffs do not present the certification of any person who either gave or received a directive to park on Plaintiffs’ property or along the public streets or in the parking lot of the Bnos Brocha school. Plaintiffs’ failure to present any actual support for its cross-motion is understandable: no such proof exists.

Lake Terrace engaged Lakewood Community Safety Watch (“LCSW”)/Shomrim, a renowned local safety watch organization that consists of well-trained staff with traffic and safety experience, to provide traffic support services prior to each event. Lake Terrace expressly informed LCSW/Shomrim of the court’s rulings and the conditions that the patrons were required to follow.

At no point did Defendants provide any directive to LCSW/Shomrim to have the patrons park in Plaintiffs’ parking lot or the Bnos Bracha parking lot as baselessly suggested by Plaintiffs.

Despite the sheer size of the submission, there is simply no proof presented by Plaintiffs to support the strategically filed cross-motion to enforce litigant’s rights. The court should deny Plaintiffs’ cross-motion accordingly, their reply brief concludes.

Ultimately, following a hearing this past Friday afternoon, Judge Hodgson denied Lake Terrace's Motion for Reconsideration, saying that "the court is satisfied that there is no basis to reconsider Judge Ford's earlier rulings as they were laid out clearly with sustainable reasons."

At the same time, Judge Hodgson denied Sudler's Cross-Motion to Enforce Litigants Rights - which sought to completely shut down Lake Terrace until if, and when, they receive a Use Variance from the Township's Zoning Board - noting that Lake Terrace's attorney Matthew Fiorovanti Esq. asserted that the violations were not "willful."

Judge Hodgson added that, being that Judge Ford previously granted a Stay on the litigation on the basis that Lake Terrace does have a pending Zoning Board application, he will now concur and Stay enforcement of the interim restraints for 60 days, pending outcome of the Zoning Board application.

The Zoning Board previously scheduled a Special Meeting for Lake Terrace's Use Variance appeal for tonight, March 20. However, that meeting has been cancelled as Lake Terrace's professionals were not available tonight. A new meeting date has not yet been scheduled.

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