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AZZOLINA v. USPS

February 26, 1985

Joseph AZZOLINA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMPSON

 This matter is before the court on cross motions for summary judgment. The defendant also moves to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiff is Joseph Azzolina. He purports to bring his complaint as a class action but has not moved for class certification as required by FED.R.CIV.P. 23. The defendant is the United States Postal Service ("U.S.P.S.").

 The facts appear to be as follows. Azzolina is challenging the selection by the U.S.P.S. of a particular parcel of real estate for a new main post office in Middletown, New Jersey. The existing main post office is located at the intersection of Route 35 and King's Highway. The United States leases the land for the existing post office from Azzolina Land Corporation. The president of the corporation is Joseph Azzolina, the plaintiff in this matter.

 Mr. Weiner received eight bids for property located in the desired area. One of the bids was offered by Azzolina Land Corporation and was on King's Highway, directly across the street from the existing post office. A Site Evaluation Team, which included Mr. Weiner, visited the eight sites in September 1982. The team unanimously selected an unimproved site located on Route 35 close to Harmony Road. This site is adjacent to a Channel Lumber Store near a Sears shopping complex and approximately 1.4 miles north along Route 35 from the existing post office.

 Mr. Weiner sent letters to the state and area clearinghouses designated in the Office of Management & Budget Circular No. A-95 to be notified of certain federal projects. After inquiry, he was informed by the Tri-State Planning Commission that the New Jersey Bureau of State and Regional Planning, Department of Community Affairs (Trenton, New Jersey), was the single body to be notified of such projects in New Jersey. He wrote again to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, notifying it that a specific site had been selected and enclosing additional information about the Harmony Road property. Mr. Weiner's letter was acknowledged, but he received no comments about his selection.

 Mr. Weiner determined that the proposed building on Harmony Road did not require an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) or an Environmental Assessment (EA). According to the U.S.P.S. Environmental Protection Handbook, buildings of less than 20,000 square feet are considered not to have a significant environmental impact unless there are extraordinary circumstances. The proposed building is to cover only 8,568 square feet and Mr. Weiner noted no extraordinary circumstances.

 Mr. Cramer presented the site selection to the Middletown Planning Board at their meeting on November 10, 1982. Mr. Weiner offered to attend the meeting, but was told that it was not necessary. It appears that the Planning Board did not object to the site, but was concerned about the design of the building, the parking lot and landscaping.

 On November 12, 1982, the U.S.P.S. accepted the offer to buy the Harmony Road site. The purchase went to settlement on December 14, 1982, and a press release followed.

 However, in early January 1983, Mr. Weiner learned that there were objections to the new post office site. On February 7, 1983, Mr. Weiner and other U.S.P.S. representatives attended a public meeting of the Township Committee. Mr. Weiner advised them that the U.S.P.S. would seriously consider any alternative site that might be offered.

 Shortly after the meeting, Mr. Azzolina offered to lease to the U.S.P.S. for $1.00 a year the site that he had originally offered in his bid. The U.S.P.S. hired an independent consulting firm to prepare a Limited Environmental Assessment. In addition, an independent engineering firm prepared a preliminary analysis of site preparation costs for the plaintiff's site and the Harmony Road site. The estimated preparation costs of the plaintiff's site were in excess of $ 600,000, while the costs for the Harmony Road site were estimated at $ 20,000. On the basis of these reports, the U.S.P.S. did not accept Mr. Azzolina's offer.

 Meanwhile, the Township attempted to find an alternative site. However, on June 21, 1983, Mayor Paul Linder wrote a letter to Mr. Weiner which stated as follows:

 
I regret to advise you that our proposal to offer this site for your use is not feasible, since it lies within a natural detention basis. Our concerns to obtain a site situated near the present Post Office location that provides easy access are still unresolved, as efforts to locate such a site have been fruitless. Thank you for your patients in waiting to see if we could develop a counter-proposal to your proposed site next to Channel Lumber Company.

 Accordingly, Mr. Weiner advised the mayor that the U.S.P.S. would soon be selecting an architect for the ...


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