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.
“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.