A local developer who owns a townhome inside a newly created condemnation area has gone to court in hopes of stopping plans for a 50-story high-rise along Marin Boulevard.
Last month, we were the first to break the news about a proposal from Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC) at a 1.81-acre parcel. Located between First and Second streets and straddling Marin Boulevard and Grove Street, the land currently hosts 38 prefabricated townhomes that were moved to the property during the 1970s.
During a meeting of the Harsimus Cove Association in February, LMC Vice President Charles Epstein said that the property’s homeowners initially approached the company about purchasing their homes. Since then, LMC has agreed to market-rate deals to buy all the townhomes from the current owners except for one that’s under the control of a company called Saddlewood Court LLC.
The proposed redevelopment of the land would see a tiered high-rise along Marin Boulevard containing about 810 rental apartments, including 41 units designated as affordable housing. 294 parking spaces and 14,000 square feet of retail space would be featured on the ground floor and as part of the deal, a 50,000-square-foot public school would be built along First Street.
Laurel & Saddlewood would also expand and renovate the existing Philippine Plaza on the land, almost quadrupling it in size to about 11,400 square feet. Per the Jersey Journal, a city-prepared report from 2019 determined that the existing parcel qualified as being in need of redevelopment.
Jersey City’s council approved a resolution last month that declared the parcel a Condemnation Redevelopment Area and Saddlewood Court LLC has filed a lawsuit looking to have that designation tossed. The case, filed in Hudson County court on March 17, says the council’s decision is a “misguided attempt…to redevelop an area that is not blighted.”
Saddlewood Court LLC owns the townhouse at 11 Saddlewood Court while the company is registered out of the same 2nd Street address as Shuster Management and controlled by Eyal Shuster and Adam Knoll. They named the city, the council, and the planning board as defendants in their case.
The crux of the lawsuit takes aim at the aforementioned 2019 report on the land written by Timothy Krehel on behalf of the city, which the developers claim “adopted an arbitrary designation by characterizing and grouping properties as being in ‘good,’ ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ condition.”
The case claims that Krehe’s conclusions in the report “were based on a flawed analysis” and “the majority of the indicators which were considered in the course of rating the physical condition of the properties were either basic maintenance requirements or cosmetic issues.”
The lawsuit says Krehel’s report does not include any data from city’s fire or police departments to support a blighted designation of the land, lacks evidence of building or construction code violations at any of the homes, and features no engineering analysis regarding stormwater management at the parcel.
Additionally, the case says Krehle did not inspect any of the interiors at the homes and did not analyze the structural integrity of the buildings while writing his report.
The filing claims that during a planning board meeting on January 7 discussing the report, Mr. Krehel allegedly “expressly admitted that there was no basis in particular for his conclusion that the improvements with the Study Area were conductive to unwholesome living or working conditions, instead claiming only that [the design of the homes] ‘looks awkward.’”
Further testimony from Krehel supposedly “did not provide the substantial credible evidence necessary to find the Study Area in need of redevelopment or otherwise address the deficiencies contained in [his] report,” according to the complaint.
As a result, the lawsuit says that Krehl’s report “amounts to little more than a net opinion.” Saddlewood Court LLC wants to see the city council’s ordinance declared null and void and is being represented in court by Scott Heiart with Florham Park-based firm Carlin & Ward.
Saddlewood Court’s Eyal Shuster, purchased the townhouse in 2016 for $900,000 likely as a first step to developing the land himself. Shuster has since been vocal in his opposition to the ordinance and spoke against its approval per reporting from Hudson County View.
“The city is unfairly and illegally favoring a competing developer and assisting interference with our six-year effort to develop Saddlewood Court,” Shuster said during the council’s February 13 meeting. “With your vote today, you are not condemning my property, you’re condemning my livelihood and the livelihood of over 100 people who work in my office, 50 percent of which are Jersey City residents.”