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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

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Outfall Pipe, Bennett’s Crossing Contractors Seek Damages

 

By Jack Fichter

VILLAS — Lower Township is dealing with lawsuits from two contractors and a pressing deadline to submit an affordable housing plan to the state.
Township Solicitor Tony Monzo updated Township Council at a Feb. 18 meeting. The township is seeking proposals from planning firms to prepare a fair share plan for the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). He said he hoped township council would select a planner at its March 2 meeting.
Monzo said a plan or a “petition for substantive certification,” would be submitted to COAH, either of which would protect the township from a builder’s remedy lawsuit.
Conifer Village, a 90-unit, low-income senior apartment complex is proposed to be constructed at the corner of Townbank and Bayshore roads. Monzo said the project is contingent on receiving some financing from the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, which is requiring the township submit a fair share plan to COAH by April 8.
He said a fair housing plan would first need to be submitted to the township’s Planning Board and then to Township Council for approval. Monzo acknowledged timing was tight on the issue and special meetings could be scheduled for the matter.
If the plan is not submitted to COAH on time, it would jeopardize the township receiving neighborhood rehabilitation funds.
Township Manager Kathy McPherson said the township has received $500,000 in housing money.
The township has requested a hearing before the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding fines of $72,500 levied for unauthorized work on outfall pipes along the bay. The project was halted by DEP for a lack of permits.
“There were emails sent to township officials during that project that appear to authorize the township to go forward with some emergency work for the extension of those pipes,” said Monzo.
He said the emails are not as binding as a state permit but may be a mitigating factor in trying to negotiate a decrease or eliminate some of the fines.
Martinelli, the contractor for the outfall project, is claiming they are entitled to damages based on delays, due to the township’s failure to proceed. Council discussed the matter with Monzo in a closed session.
He said he believed the contract had adequate safeguards and protections in the event the project was stopped there would be no recourse beyond being paid for work completed.
Council also discussed continuing litigation with the Bennett’s Crossing recreation area in closed session. Monzo said litigation with Fondacaro Construction was dismissed by a “stipulation of dismissal.”
The township received a court motion compelling arbitration.
“It is reprehensible that we are even in the position with Bennett’s Crossing that this township stands to have to even litigate and potentially pay out funds, taxpayers money, to a contractor of that stature,” said Lare.

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