The project, which is being spearheaded by Shipyard Associates, a subsidiary of Ironstate Development, was first approved by the city’s Planning Board in 1997, but that plan included the construction of three tennis courts in addition to around 1,000 residential units. In 2012, Shipyard Associates decided to do away with the tennis courts, replacing them with the two luxury apartment buildings. The city sued in an effort to force Ironstate to stick to their original plan to build the courts.
A prior legal ruling had mandated that the Planning Board, which oversees and approves such projects, hold a hearing to hear the merits of the project’s current incarnation before a judge made a final decision. But apparently, the hearing was not held in time (though the Planning Board nevertheless issued a resolution denying the application) and so the project was approved automatically.
“The Planning Board contends that this denial constituted an ‘act’ sufficient to satisfy the automatic approval provision, and that automatic approval is otherwise inappropriate,” wrote Judge Nesle A. Rodriguez. “The Planning Board’s complete disregard of its statutory duty to hold a hearing on the merits constitutes a failure to act.”
The President of Ironstate Development, Michael Barry, said that Rodriguez’s decision was a justification of Shipyard’s position that the city tried to circumvent the legal process by failing to hold a hearing.
“Today’s decision [by Rodriguez] to grant automatic approval of the Monarch’s site plan application validates our contention all along of a deliberate attempt by the City to circumvent the legal process with respect to the site plan application process,” said Barry in a statement. “We’re thankful that the Court recognized the Planning Board’s failure to follow statutorily-required procedures.”
Still, it is unclear whether the project will be able to proceed, as the City Council passed an ordinance earlier this month that bars construction on the city’s piers in an effort to protect residents from Hurricane Sandy-type storm surges. A ban on residential development would seemingly sideline the project’s current.
At the time the ordinance passed, Mayor Dawn Zimmer alluded to the possibility that it would stop the Monarch, which she has long opposed, from breaking ground, but did not say conclusively whether the project could continue.
“Based on an analysis by FEMA, our city's piers and platforms could be underwater by 6 feet in a 100-year storm. Given this possibility, the legislation prohibits residential and commercial development on our piers and platforms for the protection of future Hoboken residents and our first responders,” she said. “On a separate front, the city remains committed to legally challenging the Monarch development on all fronts.”
City spokesman Juan Melli did not return a call for comment by press time. – Dean DeChiaro