Morris Canal group suing Jersey City, planning board over 416-unit manor project


The Morris Canal Redevelopment Area Community Development Corporation is suing the City of Jersey City and their planning board over the 416-unit manor project, alleging the plan is only possible through “illicit spot zoning.”

A rendering of the Morris Canal Manor. Screenshot via Zoom.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The 38-page suit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court on Friday, alleges that the MCRACDC obtained millions of dollars in state and county grants to convert the 417 Communipaw Ave. property into a park.

Furthermore, the Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan did not allow for any residential structures within an industrial zone, claiming that therefore the proposed 17-story structure is “expressly forbidden.”

The MCRACDC and June Jones, the executive director of the agency, are being represented by Matsikoudis & Fanciullo, LLC and Renee Steinhagen, of the New Jersey Appleseed Public Interest Law Center, Inc.

As far as the “illicit spot zoning” is concerned, the plaintiffs argue that the project developer, Skyline Development, $3 million through a plan that violates state land use law.

“Plaintiff requests that this Court strike down the Ordinance at issue, reverse the illicit rezoning of the Steel Tech site, and compel the Defendants to follow the procedural and substantive scriptures of both the Plan and New Jersey State law in any future efforts to change the use of the Property and develop it in any way other than as part of Berry Lane Park,” the lawsuit says.

The Jersey City Council approved a zoning measure to move the Morris Canal Manor project forward back in December by a vote of 7-2, a meeting where Jones and several other residents spoke out against the development.

This vote came after the planning board okayed amendments to the Morris Canal Redevelopment Plan that would pave the way for this project in October.

Proponents of the plan, such as Council President Joyce Watterman and Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson, have touted a 22,000 square-foot STEM recreation center and 14,000 square feet of retail space as examples why this project is needed in Ward F.

City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione echoed that sentiment, also expressing that the city has moved this project forward legally.

“The legal process is being followed, and we look forward to moving Ward F forward after working diligently with Councilman Robinson and the private sector to provide the community with a 22,000-square-foot recreation center for Jersey City’s youth, 40 public parking spots, a small business incubator space focused on women and veterans, in addition to 5% affordable housing for the site,” she said.

“This will be a great addition to complement Berry Lane Park, and it is being done in a way that is responsible, without putting taxpayers on the hook for millions upon millions of dollars, especially amid the current financial strain so many people are facing as a result of the pandemic.”

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