The Zimmer administration’s long battle against the Monarch development on the north waterfront appears headed to the state Supreme Court after a recent ruling, potentially costing the city an additional $1 million in legal fees.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer said last week that she is still open to trying to reach a settlement in the matter if “acceptable terms” are met.
The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled two weeks ago against Hoboken’s request for a hearing from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The city has been fighting the 2011 permit the DEP granted for the development.
The developers, Shipyard Associates, want to build two 11-story buildings near Sinatra Drive and Shipyard Lane, with 70 residential units. The city says Shipyard Associates wrongfully abandoned a 1997 plan that included building three tennis courts and a tennis pavilion on the North Pier, besides the residential housing.
The appeal to the Supreme Court follows the failure of an agreement between the city and developers.
Besides the issue of the recreational amenities, Zimmer more recently cited concerns with waterfront development in light of Hurricane Sandy, when a storm surge caused widespread flooding and property damage in 2012.
“Superstorm Sandy was a devastating event, and the impacts of climate change and rising seas absolutely need to be considered when we are potentially putting future residents and our first responders at risk by developing on waterfront piers,” she said in a release. “We will be immediately filing a petition for certification to appeal this to the New Jersey Supreme Court.”
The appellate court’s ruling stated, “As Shipyard points out, there is no evidence of any permit violations, ‘significant unauthorized changes in the plan,’ or any adverse unanticipated impacts ‘caused by the development,’ We therefore conclude that post-Superstorm Sandy changes to the department’s regulations and the city’s ordinances did not constitute ‘good cause’ to revoke the (waterfront development permit) issued to Shipyard in December 2011.”
Last year, Zimmer and Shipyard Associates worked out a settlement. In the agreement, Shipyard would cease to build on the waterfront and would pay the city $500,000 to clean up the land and build a waterfront walkway. In turn, the developers would get to build more densely on residential property they own at 800 Monroe St.
In November 2016, the City Council rejected the proposed settlement. At a public hearing, roughly 30 members of the public spoke out against it.
The settlement would have allowed Shipyard to add additional units to their 186 unit development at 800 Monroe St., of which 27 would be affordable housing units.
“The outcome of this litigation if we continue to pursue it is uncertain,” said Zimmer in a letter to the public last November. “If we lose, we block our community’s waterfront. We still have 186 units and up to 14 floors of development at 800 Monroe, and we will have spent about $2 million in litigation costs with nothing but development to show for it.”
Residents on the west side of town spoke of density issues including parking, traffic, and sewerage. Members of the public also spoke about the lack of community input and transparency in coming up with the deal.
Some said the outcome pitted the west side of Hoboken against the waterfront community.
"The city of Hoboken has spent about $1 million on Monarch litigation matters and estimates as much as $1 million could be needed for the four ongoing legal cases,” said Zimmer last week. “A tentative settlement agreement was reached last year subject to City Council approval, but the City Council unanimously voted to reject the settlement and to instead continue litigating. The council was aware of both the risks involved in litigation and of the costs involved in continuing to litigate these matters. The city is always open to settling litigation if they can be settled on acceptable terms, and if a future opportunity arises, it will be presented again to the City Council."