Hamilton Street Development Project Denied By Planning Board, Attorney Hints At Legal Action

745 Hamilton Street

Aerial view of the property targeted for the 745 Hamilton Street project.

A proposed mixed-use building on Hamilton Street was rejected by the Planning Board at its July meeting, prompting a thinly veiled threat of a lawsuit by the project’s attorney.

Board members were upset that the developer, 745 Hamilton Street LLC, did not provide members with a report on how the site’s stormwater would be managed. That was the only piece of information missing in March, when the board heard the bulk of the testimony on the project.

The project is one of three mixed-use developments that township planners say will herald a new era in the Hamilton Street business district. The other two have been approved.

The developer’s attorney, Peter Lanfrit, expected a quick resolution on the application at the July 20 meeting. He told board members that any outstanding items – including that of the stormwater management – would be reviewed by the township engineer and any problems addressed by his client.

Everything seemed fine until the board took its vote.

Township Councilman Ted Chase was the first one called to vote, and he cast the first “no” vote.

“I’m just unhappy about leaving everything to engineering and never bringing anything to the board,” he said. “What’s the use of a board if everything is settled between the engineer and the applicant?”

Board vice chairperson Cecile MacIvor and board member Mustafa Mansaray voted “yes.”

Board member Carl Hauck, saying he agreed with Chase, cast the next “no” vote.

“No” votes were also recorded by board members Jennifer Rangnow and Godwin Omalola, and board chairman Michael Orsini.

“I share the same concerns about the stormwater,” Rangnow said.

“There are a lot of inconsistencies,” Omalola said. “It’s not clear enough to me. Until that is resolved, I will say no.”

“Throughout this application,” Orsini said, “it seems that we have not always gotten everything that we should have. We’ve taken on hearsay tonight that the geotech works, that’s what we hear. We don’t even have a report before us that states that from a professional. That’s difficult to support, so I will also vote no.”

With a 5-2 vote against approval, the application was denied.

“Somebody ought to review the Municipal Land Use Law, but that’s fine,” Lanfrit said, as he angrily shuffled his papers.

“In a lot of applications we’ve been asked to take a lot on faith, and I think that maybe you heard tonight you’ve asked us to take too much on faith,” Orsini said.

“I’m not gong to argue it here, some court will tell us at some point if I’m right or you’re right,” Lanfrit said.

“You’re always welcome to come back with a complete plan,” Orsini said.

“Just get the plans in in time for a review,” Chase said.

The project entailed building an “L-shaped” building at the corner of Hamilton Street and DeWald Avenue, with three single family homes built behind it along a new street that the developer would build.

The first floor would contain about 6,000 square feet of retail space and 30 1- and 2-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors.

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