Village Keepers Drops Litigation, Says Maplewood Will Comply With Complaint

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This article has been updated to indicate that the Village Keepers has reported that the Township of Maplewood will comply with their entire complaint. In addition, the story has been updated to indicate that Mayor Vic DeLuca reports that the Township has not been notified that the suit has been dropped.

Village Keepers Inc. is reporting tonight that the Township of Maplewood will comply with its complaint regarding the proposed post office development, and therefore Village Keepers is ceasing its litigation against the town.

The report, on the Village Keepers website, states that the Maplewood Village Alliance will now “comply” with a Township ordinance (article B6) stating “that buildings in the Village cannot be demolished unless the owner can show that repurposing the existing structure would cause it to experience ‘significant financial hardship.'”

This does not mean that the post office building in Maplewood Village will not be demolished; it signifies that the Maplewood Village Alliance will now hear testimony to determine whether the owner can meet these standards for demolition.

In a phone conversation, Village Keepers Inc. board member Fred Profeta clarified that the Town will also comply with the second part of the complaint that the MVA review a “proper site plan” for the development before approving the recommendations of its Post Office Design Review Subcommittee, as per a letter from the town’s attorney.

In response to a request to comment on the Village Keepers’ announcement, Mayor Vic DeLuca replied, “On the advice of counsel we will not be commenting.” In a follow up email, DeLuca added, “The Township has not been notified,” regarding the fact that Village Keepers was dropping the suit.

A civil suit by Village Keepers Inc. was served to the Township of Maplewood, the developer of the Post House project, and the Maplewood Village Alliance Special Improvement District — or MVA — early in June.

In the suit, Village Keepers cited several counts.

The first count involved a section of the MVA’s Design Criteria that states that a property owner show “significant financial hardship” in seeking approval to demolish a property within the special improvement district. The suit alleges that the MVA failed in its duty when it denied a motion regarding this section of the criteria at its April 8 meeting.

The second count involved a complaint that the neither the MVA nor its Post Office Development Review Subcommittee reviewed a proper site plan for the development before approving the Post Office Design Review Subcommittee’s [PODRS] recommendations on May 6, as allegedly required by the redevelopment plan.

The third count was that the MVA’s decisions with regard to the first two counts were “arbitrary and capricious.”

On its website today, the Village Keepers also reported the “bad news” that the Maplewood Village Alliance “will be weighing a site plan that has never been made available to the public, hearing from ‘expert witnesses’ hired by the developer that have not been disclosed, and voting on a hardship requirement that it earlier failed to demand of the town.”

The MVA will be holding a hearing on Wednesday, July 22. “This allows us no time to find and familiarize expert witnesses with the case, who would have no site plan that they could review in any event,” the Village Keepers website stated. “We will protest the woefully insufficient notice at the Alliance meeting, but we will be unable to put on a meaningful case.” However, Village Keepers indicated that it will be making its case before the Maplewood Planning Board.

Read the full Village Keepers post here.

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