Grabowksy Sues Montclair Over Assisted Living Plan

Downtown developer Dick Grabowsky has filed a lawsuit in NJ Superior Court suing the township of Montclair over the council’s decision to go ahead with an 88-room assisted living facility on Church Street. The suit was filed June 20. In his suit, Grabowsky asks the court to declare “improper, invalid, unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, null, void and of no force and effect” the council’s ordinance passed “with unwarranted haste” on May 1 amending the downtown redevelopment to permit the assisted living facility. The lawsuit accuses the council of having “utterly ignored” the essential purpose of the redevelopment plan and favoring “private interests at odds with the community of large.” It also said the council “robbed the public of an adequate opportunity to review the proposal, consider its implications and adequately be heard.” An assisted living facility, Grabowsky’s suit asserts, is “a far cry from being a catalyst for economic revitalization, will put a drag on the economics of the vital business district, and will add to, rather than provide relief from, Montclair’s dire parking crisis.” In addition, the suit asserts that former Mayor Jerry Fried and Councilman Nick Lewis, as active, prominent members of the Unitarian Universality Congregational Church adjacent to the proposed facility, should have recused themselves in the matter.

The Council and the Planning Board rammed the amended use through the approval process through the use of back-door meetings and inadequate disclosures, with utter disregard of whether the use was appropriate for downtown Montclair and its businesses and without substantial, credible evidence supporting the new, proposed use.

Township attorney Ira Karasick could not be reached for comment said he will recuse himself from the case because he has done work for Grabowsky.

“This is about process,” Grabowsky said when reached by phone this morning. “I felt like the public didn’t have its opportunity. That’s all.”

“I’ve ot seen the lawsuit and I’m not aware of any flaws in the process. But I’m not an expert in this field,” said Luther Flurry, director of the Montclair Business Improvement District. “The project as presented will benefit downtown. The question that Dick is asking is whether there are projects with greater benefit. That’s an excellent question. But I do not know whether the planning board and council are charged with answering that question.”

In a Survey USA Poll commissioned by Baristanet and conducted April 23-25, Montclair residents were split over the proposed facility, with 34 percent favoring it, 39 percent opposing it and 27 percent not sure.

See the lawsuit in its entirety here.

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  1. Perhaps Grabowski wanted the property for himself, so that we could have more empty storefronts in Montclair Center. He already has quite a few among his properties.

  2. The council made yet another poor decision. I can only hope that their process was as flawed as their vision. I’m delighted to see anyone step up and challenge them. I would have liked a more admirable hero but I’ll settle for what there is.

  3. I think that the council made a poor decision, and I’m glad that Mr. G. has stepped up (his personal interest in something else being there notwithstanding) for the greater good of (the majority of) the town(‘s people).

  4. The (former) fascist town council REALLY overreached here. Not one shred of evidence indicating this might work was provided. Didn’t they hang their hat on a developer provided or 3rd party report??? A joke if you ask me. Jackson should do everything in his power to squash this now.

  5. Kudos to Grabowsky for his efforts…the fact that the town thinks it would be a good idea to put an assisted living facility on Church Street is ridiculous!!

  6. “The question that Dick is asking is whether there are projects with greater benefit. That’s an excellent question. But I do not know whether the planning board and council are charged with answering that question.”

    What an absolute crock of a response.

  7. On this issue, Grabowsky is right. It is my understanding that the developers will be applying for a tax waiver. So again, they build it, and the residents of Montclair picks up the tab for the taxes. There is something very wrong about this. The PILOT program was supposed to be for run down areas, to be used as an enticement for developers to build in a particular area. It was and is not an entitlement. The State of NJ must approve all PILOT agreements to determine if it meets the guidelines. PILOT programs which give tax exemptions to developers hurt each and everyone of the residents of Montclair, with the exception of those who live in the developments-tax free.

  8. I’m glad to see someone finally taking action against this. Hopefully Jackson and his crew has the mental wherewithal to see what a poor mistake the previous council made and put and end to this mess once and for all.

    Just think – with the assisted living facility on Church street, they will to put an 8PM curfew in affect to keep the noise down. How’s that for a “vibrant” downtown?

  9. The issue for me was never should there be an assisted living facility in Montclair. Of course there should. The issue is: Is that the right place? I suggested that the Georgian Inn site, a short distance away, was much better. It is residential, in a beautiful neighborhood, close to the museum and Whole Foods.

    The Council’s analysis consisted of the Mayor taking a drive to another facility of the developer in White Plains, because, you know, White Plains is so much like Montclair.

    The Council turned down my Resolution to even study the proposal.

  10. I spoke against the assisted living project during my Council campaign and still oppose it, but all this lawsuit is going to do is cost the taxpayers of Montclair money. The lawsuit is baseless and won’t stop or even seriously slow the project: The Council made a mistake approving the project, but it was within the Council’s power to do so. Mayor Fried and Councillor Lewis weren’t obligated to recuse themselves just because they belong to the church next door. So Montclair will pay a lawyer to move to dismiss the case, and that motion will, in my view, succeed. And then we’ll pay the bill.

  11. It would be a ridiculous mistake to have an assisted living at that site and a big mistake to go ahead with the South Park Street re vamping as well as the Centro Verde project. Hopefully the new council will understand and take act before Montclair becomes just another ordinary place in New Jersey. We’re losing our desirability status.

  12. As much as I don’t like this project at ALL, is there anything that can be done? Mr. G, is a problem unto himself. All of those empty locations in downtown Montclair are a blight to our city and he does nothing to help. Now to the other project of Assisted living, I don’t like it and if it is truly that they are applying for tax break, Fried only proves he should never have been the mayor of our town. I like Jeff J. and being a lawyer himself, he sees what the possible outcome can be. Thanks Jeff and keep staying involved. Now to the new council, can they really do anything about this? Why does out town do these things? Nothing about the Assisted Living place advances out town at least not in this location. I believe we should have one BUT not there.

  13. I’m no expert but I believe the next hurdle for the developer is to negotiate a tax abatement (a.k.a. PILOT) with the township for the project. This is done by the (new) Council, not the Planning Board. Let’s hope the Council takes a VERY hard line on this. Indeed, just because the property falls within a redevelopment area, it doesn’t automatically entitle the developer to a subsidy from Montclair taxpayers. Maybe if this ill-conceived project needs to sit on its own economic bottom, it won’t work.

    The details of a PILOT get a little complicated. For one thing, only 5% of the PILOT goes to the county vs. 20% +/- of regular tax payments. And the township does not share the remaining 95% with the BOE. So there may be the perverse financial incentive for the township to make a deal. Let’s hope they do the right thing and try to stop this wrong-headed development.

    Better deals will come along. Keep the faith!


  14. “The question that Dick is asking is whether there are projects with greater benefit.”

    Here’s a project for ya DG, lower your asking rental prices and get some g’damn businesses into those store fronts. And if you can’t find a greater benefit than that, sell them to the other guy who owns the rest of Bloomfield Ave

  15. Do you really hold out hope that a council headed by a guy whose past includes a working for a building contractor and whose slate stated that the way to get out of our tax situation was to increase ratables will hold any developer’s feet to the fire?
    Jeezus, they just appointed a teachers union rep to the BOSE!

  16. Thanks Dick! The wording of the suit pretty much sums up what the obvious problems with this project are. When I think of what potential catalysts for re-development and re-vitalization of an area desperately in need of ratables could potentially be, I immediately think of an assisted living facility that will first receive a tax abatement, then change to a non-profit ownership structure.

    As to Mr. Grabowsky’s vacant buildings, I would imagine that he is holding out prime locations for appropriate tenants. I’m under the impression that he owns the building that currently houses Anthropologie, which actually is a draw for shoppers and a downtown anchor tenant. The solution isn’t to lower rents and open a bunch of nail salons and yogurt places, at least if you have a vision for bringing real revenue producing businesses to town. And spare the brickbats about the “back door” club, or whatever it was. At least the guy is appropriately inclusive for the local readership.

  17. Instead of taking a guided tour led by the facility owner, Fried should have canvasses the businesses and residents of the neighborhood surrounding the facility in White Plains. And he could have easily done the sames with other ALF’s right here in NJ. What is the impact of a large self contained structure that will not have any sidewalk level retail space in a neighborhood like this? What can be expected in terms of additionalmtraffic ans noise – i.e., ambulances (noise, traffic, expense to the town), delivery trucks for food, laundry and other supplies, and parking for workers? How likely is it that this for profit will be able to make a go of it without accepting Medicaid patients and how likely is it to become a not for profit?

    Dick is right. This is going to be a really big mistake and the town will undoubtably lose a valuable ratable.

  18. Mr. G does own the building, I believe, where Anthropologie is. That is a big building with lots of empty store fronts. Then go across the street and look what is vacant, except the old PNC bank, and it looks like Mr. G once again is holding out for………something, higher rents I am sure. I won’t go on because the old Whole Theater/light store is his also. We need to start getting businesses in here and not nail places and etc. That being said Mr. G holding out for big names hasn’t worked either. Now I am glad he brought the lawsuit. It needed to happen and our town has been taken again my the old mayor. Please Assisted Living in Montclair is needed but not at that location. It was a drastic grab at “history” and making Fried’s name as a “leader”, LOL. Sorry but there is so much to be done and we have shot ourselves in the foot often. It is a shame.

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