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Controversial Monarch Project greenlit by court

Settlement agreement could transfer the property to the City of Hoboken

Waterfront property could be transferred to the city as part of a settlement agreement between Hoboken and the developers despite the recent New Jersey Supreme Court ruling.

The state Supreme Court has ruled against the City of Hoboken in the Monarch Project case, in which the city tried to prevent the development of two 11-story high rise residential buildings along Hoboken’s uptown waterfront.

However, the administration of Mayor Ravi Bhalla has negotiated a settlement agreement with the developers that the City Council approved in August and, according to the city, both parties are continuing to negotiate a redevelopment agreement that, if approved, would officially transfer the Monarch property to the city.

“We knew that relying on the Supreme Court was a risky proposition, and that entering into a settlement with [Applied Development Company] was the prudent course of action,” said Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “Had we relied solely on the court process, the recent ruling would have allowed the two Monarch towers to be built on our waterfront, without any recourse for the city, and ruined any chance of open space at this location. Instead, we are continuing through the redevelopment phase with Applied, and I’m grateful they are continuing to negotiate in good faith with my administration.”

Litigious land

Applied Development Company, then Shipyard Associates, entered into a Developer’s Agreement with Hoboken in 1997 for the construction of 1,160 residential units, and more.

The agreement required that tennis facilities and a walkway be constructed.

After completing most of the residential housing built as part of the existing Shipyard project, in 2011 the developer proposed constructing two additional high-rises on the pier near Shipyard Lane and Sinatra Drive, totaling 70 units and labeled The Monarch, instead of building the tennis courts.

Hoboken’s then-mayor, city council, Fund for a Better Waterfront (FBW), and residents of the Hudson Tea Building opposed the new plan, which they said violated the original 1997 agreement, instigating several legal cases between the developer and  the city, FBW, and the Hudson Tea residents.

A 2014 Superior Court ruling approved the developer’s application to build the 11-story residential towers, after the city’s Planning Board, which had opposed its construction, missed a deadline to hold a hearing on the merits of the project. The court ruled the project was approved automatically though the planning board issued a resolution denying the application.

Then the city attempted to fight the development, citing 2013 zoning ordinances that prohibit construction on waterfront piers, except for low-rise recreation buildings. But a 2019 decision by the New Jersey Appellate Court ruled that the city did not have the authority to enforce these ordinances.

It was that decision that the state Supreme Court agreed to review this week, siding with the appellate court.

The settlement

According to the settlement, Applied Development Company would give up the right to develop on the Monarch site. In exchange, the city will grant Applied an opportunity to redevelop the Public Works Garage site at 256 Observer Hwy., pending passage of a Redevelopment Agreement.

Once the Redevelopment Agreement is executed, the city may take ownership of the Monarch site for the purpose of creating open space, and Applied Development Company will pay the city up to $1 million for the removal of debris or other public improvements.

Redevelopment of the Public Works Garage site, pending a Redevelopment Agreement, will include a state-of-the-art facility for the Department of Public Works, paid for and built by Applied Development Company; 4,000 square feet of retail along Observer Highway; 264,000 square feet of a transit-oriented rental building, in scale with the neighboring buildings with zero density above what is provided for in the Municipal Garage Redevelopment Plan; and at least 11 percent of all housing units mandated as affordable housing.

Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher is confident that the terms of the settlement agreement will remain unchanged, and that a critical piece of Hoboken’s waterfront will remain in public hands for the future.

“This is an incredibly disappointing and final ruling on what has been an epic community fight against irresponsible development on Hoboken’s waterfront,” Fisher said. “Everyone has their issue that gets them off the couch and mine was Monarch.  This started me on a path of advocating not only against the project but for protecting our entire waterfront, a path I continue to follow today.”

She said she remains committed to support the settlement terms agreed to last summer that will not only make the Monarch site public open space but also build a needed state-of-the art Public Works Garage.

“Importantly, because the settlement agreement already contemplated this ruling by crediting the developer with the full development value for the Monarch site, I am confident today’s decision will not negatively impact the terms of the settlement nor the outcome to Hoboken residents and taxpayers,” said Fisher added.  “As I always have, I remain in this fight and am committed to continuing my advocacy for our waterfront and working hard to see this agreement come to fruition.”

Kevin Coakley of Connell Foley LLP, attornies for the developer, said, “We were pleased with the Supreme Court’s clear and thorough opinion that upholds the protections for vested rights that were created by the Legislature. This important decision concludes a series of lawsuits and affirms the principle that zoning requirements cannot be retroactively changed to undo final land use approvals. We look forward to working with the city as we move forward.”

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.



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