Piscataway NJ sued over approved warehouses near Randolphville school


PISCATAWAY — Several residents, including three school board members, and a few community organizations have filed a lawsuit against the city council and planning board alleging that the rezoning of a 24.5-acre lot on South Washington Avenue in industrial purposes was illegal.

Some of the plaintiffs in this case are also challenging in court the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s 2021 approval of M&M Realty Partners at Piscataway to build two warehouses totaling 360,000 square feet on the property approximately 220 yards from the Randolphville school. .

This lawsuit is pending before the Superior Court.

In 2016, M&M proposed 268 two-bedroom condominiums, 30 affordable housing units, an 86,000 square foot grocery store, and other commercial uses on the property. Jack Morris, one of the state’s most prominent developers headquartered in the township, is an M&M partner.

The zoning board denied the request and M&M sued the township. A settlement was reached before the trial and the number of living units was reduced to 242.

The property, opposite the Halper Farm, has been rezoned from rural residential to industrial.

The latest lawsuit argues that the rezoning was inconsistent with the township’s master plan and “was created solely for the developer and is one-time zoning.”

READ: After more than two decades, Piscataway settles the Halper Farm case paving the way for a new park

The lawsuit was brought by Sazha Alexandra Ramos, Pratik Patel, Daniel and Sarah Jackson, Matthew Knoblauch, Shantell Cherry, Ralph Johnson, Zoe Scotto, Kamuela Tillman and Staci Berger, and the Piscataway Progressive Democratic Organization, Piscataway Families for Clean Air and the Piscataway. Progressive Youth Organization. Cherry, Johnson and Scotto are members of the Piscataway Board of Education and brought the lawsuit as private citizens, not as members of the board.

“It is unclear why the council and planning board have taken this action while litigation against the zoning board is active,” wrote land use lawyer Cynthia Hadjiyannisa, who will act as co-advisor with NJ Appleseed Executive Director Renee Steinhagen. “It could be that the board is trying to circumvent the other lawsuit, but their action here is against New Jersey law.”

“By rezoning this property in this manner, local planning board and township council officials are undermining the critical input of the experts and residents who contributed to the master plan,” Steinhagen wrote. “Deciding if and how to develop land in a community is one of the most important parts of our land use law. Not only have council and planning board members failed to respond to recommendations made by the public and other stakeholders in 2005 and confirmed during the master plan review in 2020, but they completely ignored them.”

READ: The company that makes PopCorners wants to expand to Piscataway

Piscataway Township spokesman Gene Wilk said the lawsuit was “politically motivated.”

Berger and Johnson, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, have announced their candidacies for the June Democratic primary for township council. Both criticized longtime Democratic mayor Brian Wahler.

Wilk also defended township approvals and the consequences if successful prosecutions.

“Piscataway is moving forward with economic development that creates good jobs and an open space park that all residents can enjoy,” Wilk said. “If this group were to succeed in their lawsuit, the likely outcome would be 249 high-density apartments and 100,000 square feet of commercial space that would clog our residential streets and add even more strain to the school system. The logistics center will be a net benefit to the township ratepayers and it’s a shame that ratepayer money has to be wasted on a frivolous lawsuit.”

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Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to her articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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