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Judge upholds Howell Planning Board’s denial of Monmouth Commerce Center

HOWELL – State Superior Court Judge Owen C. McCarthy has rejected an appeal that was filed by a developer who sought and was denied municipal approval to build 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space on Randolph Road in Howell.

The attorney who represents the developer has said the judge’s decision will be appealed.

Monmouth Commerce Center, the applicant, and Lawrence Katz and Felix Pflaster, as the owners, filed an application with the Howell Planning Board in which they proposed to construct nine warehouses totaling 1.2 million square feet on a 99-acre parcel on Randolph Road.

Warehouses are a permitted use at the location where they were being proposed.

On Jan. 31, 2020, following a series of public hearings during which representatives of the applicant described the project and Howell residents objected to the proposed use in their neighborhood, Planning Board members voted to deny the Monmouth Commerce Center application.

On May 21, 2020, Monmouth Commerce Center’s representatives filed a legal complaint in state Superior Court, Freehold, naming the township, the Planning Board and the Township Council as defendants.

The legal complaint alleged wrongful denial of site plan approval, erroneous ordinance interpretation, improper denial of a variance, failure to act on requested relief, improper interpretation and application of a tree replacement ordinance, improper application fees and fee ordinance, and failure to grant extended vested rights.

On July 23, McCarthy upheld the Planning Board’s denial of the Monmouth Commerce Center application.

Attorney Jerry J. Dasti represented the township and the Township Council.

Attorney Ronald Cucchiaro represented the Planning Board.

Attorney Meryl Gonchar represented the Monmouth Commerce Center.

Regarding the judge’s decision, Cucchiaro said, “This part of the case dealt exclusively with the Planning Board. The case initially dealt with the township and the Planning Board, it was bifurcated (divided into separate actions).

“(Dasti) was handling the challenge to the ordinance regarding fees and he was successful in having that complaint dismissed. This part of the action dealt with the Planning Board’s denial of the warehouse application,” Cucchiaro said.

“It is up to the applicant now; the applicant can appeal the decision it if wishes or it can re-tool the application if it wants.

“But basically at this moment in time, they filed an application, the application was denied (by the Planning Board), the court has upheld the (board’s) denial and essentially it is over. There is nothing pending right now,” Cucchiaro said.

Regarding the judge’s decision, Gonchar said, “On behalf of our client, we strongly disagree with the decision and will be filing an appeal.”

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