MORRISTOWN — Attorneys for the Township of Parsippany and RD Management, contract purchaser of the controversial Waterview tract, appeared in Morris County Superior Court last Friday. Appearing on behalf of Parsippany, township attorney John Inglesino asked for a dismissal of a lawsuit RD had filed after the Township Council voted down the creation of an overlay zone for the tract of land in 2013 (see story). While Inglesino had stated publicly numerous times that the Council was never under any obligation to create an overlay zone, which, had it passed would have paved the way for a 140,000 square foot shopping center and over 50 town homes, RD argues that the Councils refusal to amend the zone was both arbitrary and capricious.
At Friday’s hearing it was revealed that RD had amended its original lawsuit and is currently asking for the courts to change the zone, which would allow them to build 666 housing units with some set aside for low-income housing. Ingelsino argued that the lawsuit had turned into a Mount Laurel case and asked for a dismissal. He spoke at length about COAH history and Parsippany’s current status.
At one point in the hearing, the judge suggested that the case should be heard by a COAH court, not a county judge. The judge expressed concern about how it would play out in other counties if he agreed to grant the change for COAH (thereby saying that the methodology used by the State is wrong). The judge noted that 32% of Parsippany housing consists of garden apartments which would support low to moderate income families.
In addition, the judge suggested that RD ask for a variance and not a zoning change with the Council. When applicants appear before the zoning board, applicants must reimburse the township for legal fees incurred. RD, with the encouragement of Mayor Barberio instead asked the Council to approve an overlay zone, bypassing the zoning board.
Through December 2014, Parsippany has paid $143,658.60 in legal fees to Mr. Inglesino’s firm for representing the Township in this matter. This amount includes $20,139 spent for an open space application with the County of Morris, which was declined this past fall with one member of the County’s Open Space Committee saying that “it was the worse application I have ever seen.”
The attorney representing RD Management seemed not to understand several questions from the court and talked over the judge as well. Another attorney representing RD eventually asked his younger associate to stop talking when the judge was speaking. At one point, the judge asked the RD attorney to stop talking because he was reading the master plan reexamination report.
The Court is expected to make its decision on the dismissal in the coming weeks.