Nottermans file lawsuit against Roosevelt,

planners over failed development application

By Bob Fleming

ROOSEVELT — Borough officials learned last week that a landowner’s lawsuit against the Planning Board concerning a residential development application that failed to obtain that panel’s approval has been amended to include the borough as a defendant.

Abby Notterman, Princeton Junc-tion, and Daniel Notterman, Princeton, a sister and brother who own a 110-acre tract of land off Eleanor Lane and North Valley Road, entered into a contract last year with developer Matzel and Mumford of Hazlet to sell that firm the property to be developed for single-family homes.

As the applicant, Matzel and Mumford appeared before the Planning Board on eight occasions in 1999, seeking preliminary major subdivision approval to create 65 single-family lots, together with a conditional use permit, bulk variances and several design waivers.

Following the conclusion of the extended public hearing on the application on Oct. 28, Planning Board members voted 7-0 to deny the application without prejudice.

Board members said their decision was prompted by the applicant’s refusal to grant a time extension on the application and what they said was a lack of time to hear testimony from all of the board’s professional consultants, comments from the public and testimony from witnesses that members of the public wanted to present.

At the time, Planning Board attorney Michele Donato said a denial without prejudice does not preclude the applicant from returning to the board with another proposal for consideration.

According to Michael A. Pane Jr., the attorney for the Nottermans, Matzel and Mumford terminated their contract with the Nottermans for the sale of the property, prompting the Nottermans to appeal the Planning Board’s decision.

According to the original lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court, Freehold, in January, the Nottermans challenged the board’s decision based on its failure to "take into account the facts entered into evidence, including, but not limited to, the de minimus nature of the variances requested."

The complaint further states, "The resolution adopted by the board relied upon criteria, including, but not limited to, consideration of facts and issues which are within the jurisdiction of other agencies, consideration of facts not in evidence, statutory right of the applicant to refuse to grant an extension of time to the board and case law and standards not applicable to the application and therefore, the denial cannot be sustained."

The lawsuit also states the denial is inconsistent with the Roosevelt master plan, which identifies the property for development, as well as the state Development and Redevelopment Plan, which provides for development in certain existing centers.

A third count in the complaint maintains the Planning Board’s actions "renders the development of the Notter-mans’ property unfeasible and thereby deprives them of the beneficial use of their land."

The final count of the complaint alleges conflicts of interest on the part of Gail Hunton, a Planning Board member, and Allan Mallach, the board’s professional planner and consultant, who are members of the board of trustees for the Fund for Roosevelt Inc., an organization which allegedly opposed the application and attempted to purchase the property for open space planning purposes.

The Nottermans, by way of their suit, are seeking to have the Matzel and Mumford application remanded to the Planning Board to grant approval of the original application.

They are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages for the economic losses they claim they have sustained as a result of the failed sale of their property and the subsequent denial of the Matzel and Mumford development application.

According to Mayor Michael B. Hamilton, borough officials received an amended complaint last week that names the borough, in addition to the Planning Board, as defendants in the litigation.

Hamilton declined comment on the matter, citing pending litigation, and referred questions and comments on the matter to the borough’s interim attorney, John Ross, and the Planning Board’s attorney, Michele Donato.

Ross and Donato were unavailable for comment at press time.