National Lead files complaint against Sayreville over housing agreement

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SAYREVILLE – The owner and developer of an affordable housing project in Sayreville are taking legal action against the borough.

National Lead Industries, Inc. and Rocville, LLC filed a complaint in New Jersey Superior Court against the Borough of Sayreville and the Sayreville Planning Board concerning a 2018 settlement agreement between the parties. Submitted in August, the complaint requests that the court enforces the settlement agreement.

The complaint relates to a planned affordable housing development on Cross Avenue, which was previously a National Lead site. National Lead remains the owner of the property and Rocville is the proposed developer of the housing project.

National Lead was granted intervener status in Sayreville’s litigation over its affordable housing requirements, which allowed the corporation to pursue the development. The project was originally planned to have 163 units, with 24 units designated as affordable housing.

Through the settlement agreement, the development is now planned to have 132 units, with a minimum of seven units designated as affordable housing. The complaint notes that this concession came at significant financial cost for National Lead and Rocville.

According to the complaint, National Lead was willing to make the concessions in exchange for certainty that Sayreville would impose no further obstacles to the development’s construction.

However, the complaint alleges that Sayreville and the Planning Board have not provided Rocville with the approvals necessary for the development and demanded the developer to perform tree reforestation under the borough’s tree conservation and reforestation ordinance.

The ordinance, according to the complaint, requires that trees removed in connection with a development project must be replaced. Complying with this ordinance will allegedly require Rocville to plant thousands of trees at a cost of approximately $1.5 million.

The complaint alleges that Sayreville and the Planning Board have exempted other development projects from compiling with the ordinance and selectively enforce the ordinance to deter projects unpopular in Sayreville.

In addition to population concerns, the proposed development has received opposition from residents of the Melrose section of Sayreville, near where the project is scheduled to be built. The residents have contended that the location for the project is not suitable for development and should be preserved and designated as open space.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that Sayreville and the Planning Board acknowledged tree reforestation is a cost-generative requirement, which they are obligated to refrain from imposing under the settlement agreement. The complaint also alleges Sayreville and the Planning Board have imposed other cost-generative requirements on Rocville; Rocville is required by them to provide oversized water mains and undertake an analytical study of the adequacy of the existing downstream sewer system.

As part of the complaint, National Lead and Rocville request that the court issue declaratory judgement against Sayreville and the planning board over the allegations that cost-generative requirements are being imposed. The property owner and developer also request that the court finds the borough and the planning board to have violated the settlement agreement, acted in bad faith, and breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

National Lead and Rocville are seeking through the complaint to have the court order Sayreville and the planning board to cooperate with the development of the affordable housing project.