Negotiations ongoing after Hoboken loses NJ Supreme Court appeal of Monarch project

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The City of Hoboken has lost their New Jersey Supreme Court appeal of the Monarch project, upholding a lower court’s ruling and exhausting the city’s legal remedies – though settlement negotiations are expected to move forward now.

An artist’s rendering of the Monarch project in Hoboken.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

” … The City seeks to apply two ordinances — passed after Shipyard obtained final site plan approval for the high-rises — that would prohibit residential uses on the pier. In other words, the City asks us to halt Shipyard’s proposed construction even though Shipyard’s right to build has vested under the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL),” NJ Associate Justice Walter Timpone wrote in today’s 35-page decision.

” … The City therefore cannot apply either ordinance to the Project, because they became effective within two years of the issuance of Shipyard’s final approval. As such, we affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division.”

In January 2019, it appeared that the 2nd Ward development was destined to happen after an appellate court decision ruled against Hoboken’s appeal, 11 months after the NJ Supreme Court declined to hear the city’s legal arguments.

However, the state’s highest court reversed their position in June of last year and decided they would hear the case after all, as HCV first reported.

However, just a few weeks after that, the city announced that a preliminary settlement was in the works with Shipyard Associates.

“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,” Kevin Coakley, Shipyard’s attorney, said in a statement.

“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.”

The settlement would temporarily prevent the Applied Development Company (a subsidiary of Shipyard) from building two 11-story high rise residential buildings along Hoboken’s uptown waterfront.

Furthermore, the scenario presents the opportunity for the city and Applied to negotiate a Redevelopment Agreement to officially transfer the Monarch site to the City and set the terms to build a new DPW facility.

Hoboken’s DPW garage is located at 256 Observer Highway, and along with providing a full renovation of the facility, Applied would also agree to building 4,000 square feet of retail along the thoroughfare – along with 264,000-square-foot transit-oriented rental building – which would dedicate at least 11 percent of their units to affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the Monarch site would be part of an open space project where Applied would pay the city up to $1 million to remove debris and other cleanup efforts.

The city council approved that settlement late last year, prior to the November municipal elections.

“We knew that relying on the Supreme Court was a risky proposition, and that entering into a settlement with Applied was the prudent course of action,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in a statement.

“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.”

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher called the court ruling “incredibly disappointing” and added that she is committed to the terms of the settlement, which she doesn’t believe will be impacted by the court’s decision.

“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,” Fisher said.

“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.”

Expectedly, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco said in his own statement that he was not impressed with the outcome.

“The administration’s sue first and negotiate later approach has long benefited politically connected lawyers at great expense to Hoboken taxpayers. This lawsuit was stretched out for nearly a decade to generate good political talking points for two administrations instead of proactively compromising on a plan years ago that is best for Hoboken.”

 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Shipyard Associates attorney Kevin Coakley.