A Hudson County Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit regarding the original redevelopment plan for the former Caschem site at 35 Avenue A in Bayonne.
Redevelopment plan in flux
In September, the Bayonne Planning Board adopted the Caschem redevelopment plan encompassing the entire site. The idea was to allow mixed-use residential up to three and four stories on the eastern side of Avenue A, and to allow buildings of a similar height on the western side of Avenue A including but not limited to uses such as a hotel, community center, restaurant, waterfront plaza, and more residential units.
When the redevelopment plan came before the Bayonne City Council, it was tabled in October at the request of the redeveloper, the Gamal Group. However, the City Council ultimately introduced the ordinance anyway in November for a public hearing and vote that was slated for December.
At the December meeting, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski moved to open the hearing. However no other council member seconded the motion, and the ordinance failed. Instead, the City Council introduced an ordinance at the end of the meeting as an add-on item to the agenda for a portion of the former Caschem site to the east of Avenue A.
The new plan would allow the property owner to construct six-story mixed-use multi-family residential and commercial buildings with hundreds of units at the site. The main difference between this plan and the original is an increase in the maximum height and maximum number of units allowed on the site, which directly addresses complaints made by the redeveloper’s attorney Glenn Kienz when the original plan was first approved by the Planning Board.
Following the City Council’s December meeting, resident Robert Archibald filed a lawsuit alleging the city violated the Open Public Meetings Act when it decided not to second a motion to open a public hearing for the redevelopment plan. In his suit, Archibald requested the original ordinance be given a full public hearing and vote before any action on the second ordinance is heard.
However, the order requesting that relief was denied by Judge Joseph Turula following oral arguments for “reasons stated on the record at approximately 2:50 p.m. on Feb. 4.” The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that Archibald cannot refile the suit in the same court, but can appeal it to a higher court.
In response to the ruling, Law Director Jay Coffey said the Gamal Group East redevelopment plan may now be heard by the Planning Board.
“We would move forward pending notice of an appeal,” Coffey said.
Consistency review in March?
Since the method of approving this redevelopment is different than normal, the plan must first undergo a consistency review by the Planning Board before being up for a public hearing and vote from the City Council. Typically, the Planning Board approves a redevelopment plan first before sending it to the City Council to do the same. But it can be done this way, officials have said, usually due to time constraints.
The redevelopment plan was first slated for a review in January, but that meeting was cancelled due to a lack of quorum when two Planning Board commissioners resigned and two others were sick with COVID-19. As such, the City Council had to postpone the public hearing and vote on the new redevelopment plan at its January meeting until the Planning Board can complete its consistency review, which was anticipated for February.
At the Feb. 8 meeting, Planning Board Counsel Richard Campisano said the board was going to hold off on the consistency review until the litigation regarding the original redevelopment plan was resolved. While oral arguments for the case were held on Feb. 4, the court order dismissing the case was not posted to the eCourts website until Feb. 9.
“It was an understanding that the calendar was going to carry from January into February, but it didn’t completely carry over,” Campisano said. “With regard to the Gamal Group East redevelopment plan, that matter is not scheduled for this evening because there was some litigation and the Law Department wanted the litigation resolved before we heard the redevelopment plan for consistency purposes at this board.”
According to Campisano, the redevelopment plan may undergo a consistency review at the March meeting of the Planning Board.
“It may be on our March calendar,” Campisano said. “Anybody interested in that matter, check our March calendar to be sure that’s listed. But I believe it will be the other item on our calendar.”
The Planning Board will meet next on March 8 at 6 p.m., virtually via Tetherview. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org and click on the link on the calendar webpage.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.