A new mixed-use project that was greenlit over the summer is the subject of a new legal challenge, as three nearby property owners want approvals for a nine-story development thrown out due to inadequate notice and allegedly suppressed public participation.
On August 17, Newark’s Central Planning Board approved a development at 337-339 Mulberry Street dubbed Scott Towers during a virtual hearing. Designed by OCA Architects, the scheme looks to construct 92 units over 1,458 square feet of ground floor retail space in a project that includes 13 parking spaces.
On November 16, three landowners sued Newark’s Central Planning Board looking to derail the project. Hillside-based AC&J Restoration Group Corporation, the company looking to construct Scott Towers, is not named as defendant in the case.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include 53-55 E. Kinney LLC, a company headquartered in the Brick City and owners of an industrial garage at the same address. The other plaintiffs are Chesslete’s Property LLC, who own a single-family home at 15 Scott Street and are registered out of North Bergen and Fairfield-based 335 Mulberry Associates LLC, owners of a vacant one-story structure next to the approved project.
The lawsuit says that the planning board granted Scott Towers a waiver for insufficient minimum driveway and an additional six bulk variances relating to insufficient parking, excessive number of signs, insufficient façade transparency, and insufficient shade trees. But the developer’s public notice allegedly stated that they were only seeking three bulk variances, which the case claims isn’t adequate.
“As a result [of the notice], the public was deprived of the information necessary to intelligently determine whether to object to the application or to seek further information,” the lawsuit says.
The legal filing additionally claims the virtual planning board hearing failed to comply with state law requiring meetings be open to the public.
“By holding the August 17, 2020 meeting of the Planning Board remotely via Zoom without offering an opportunity for members of the public not possessing the necessary technology to attend or effectively participate in the meeting, the planning board has violated the Sunshine Law,” the case claims.
The lawsuit also objects to the parking variance granted by the board, as Scott Towers is required to provide 53 spaces under the neighborhood’s existing zoning. “The planning board improperly found that the benefits of permitting the bulk variance to deviate so significantly from the minimum parking space requirement outweighed the detriments of permitting the deviation,” the case says.
An inquiry regarding the lawsuit placed to Newark’s Press Office has not yet been returned. The case was filed in Essex County’s Civil Law Division and no hearing date on the matter has been set.