One of the most prominent developers along the Hudson River is taking Weehawken to court over an ordinance they claim retroactively limits building heights and adds public parking requirements to a redevelopment agreement.
On January 16, Hartz Mountain and two subsidiaries filed a lawsuit naming Weehawken’s planning board and town council as defendants. The case stems from an area of the township designated the “SW Special Waterfront Zone,” which is inside the company’s Lincoln Harbor development along the Hoboken border.
The lawsuit says the most recent changes to the area’s zoning were memorialized between Hartz and Weehawken via a redevelopment agreement that became effective in May 2017. Last year, the company submitted plans to construct a pair of 18-story residential towers atop a seven-story parking garage on a 2.2-acre waterfront parcel in the zone.
While the development created no public parking spaces, Hartz says their application was consistent with the redevelopment plan. Nonetheless, the company says the planning board informed them that the application “would not be approved unless Hartz agreed to provide hundreds of free off-site parking spaces in Lincoln Harbor in perpetuity.”
The lawsuit says Hartz objected to those conditions, as the redevelopment agreement “provides that each portion of Lincoln Harbor…would need to have ‘structured parking’… as necessary to support each development phase, but does not require additional free public parking unrelated to any such development phase.”
Weehawken eventually denied the application in December after nine separate hearings in part due to height concerns. Hartz says the denial “arbitrarily claimed that the proposed buildings were not an ‘appropriate height,’ even though the…proposed building heights were entirely consistent with the terms of the Redevelopment Agreement.”
As further justification for this denial, the case claims the planning board recommended that Weehawken’s council adopt an ordinance “to retroactively limit the height of any proposed building on the [development site] and impose the free off-site parking requirement.”
Weehawken’s council did pass ordinance #32-2019 in December last year that imposed a 160-foot height limit for any future building at the site of the rejected development. The changes also added a requirement that Hartz dedicate 270 free parking spaces within Lincoln Harbor to the public, an issue the company had threatened to take legal action over.
Claiming the ordinance is “an unlawful exaction in the form of free parking,” Hartz says Weehawken never provided them with an explanation to support the quantity of parking they demanded in the ordinance. The company says that the 3,562 parking spaces already in Lincoln Harbor are “more than sufficient shared parking to satisfy the community’s needs.”
Hartz additionally says in the filing that there isn’t enough undeveloped space within Lincoln Harbor to accommodate the ordinance’s new parking demand without sacrificing later phases that are contemplated in the 2017 redevelopment agreement.
An inquiry Jersey Digs placed to Weehawken officials regarding the lawsuit has not yet been answered.
The lawsuit wants to reverse the planning board’s rejection of the development application and void the ordinance that places new height restrictions and parking requirements on the area.
Hartz Mountain is being represented in court by Christopher Porrino, who previously served as New Jersey’s Attorney General for almost two years from 2016 to 2018.