On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Passaic County, Docket No. C-83-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 21, 2010
Before Judges Sabatino and Newman.
This appeal concerns a dispute over the right to use six paved parking spaces. Plaintiff, 1952 Union Valley Road, LLC, seeks reversal of a final judgment of the Chancery Division dated January 29, 2009. The final judgment granted the owner of defendant, Adelo Corporation ("Adelo"), an easement that entitles him to make use of six parking spaces located on plaintiff's property. Adelo cross-appeals that aspect of the court's decision that made the easement personal to Adelo's sole shareholder, John Aiello.
Plaintiff is a limited liability corporation wholly owned by Lewis Qarmout ("Lewis"). Lewis and his brother Elias Qarmout ("Elias") formerly operated a convenience store together in West Milford. The convenience store is located on Lot 1 of Block 3601.
During the time that the brothers operated the convenience store together, Elias and his wife had title to Lot 1. Apparently, during that period of time, in or about 1995, Elias was approached by Aiello, the owner and sole shareholder of Adelo. Adelo owns Lot 2, adjoining Lot 1 at the corner of Union Valley Road and Stainsby Road, which Adelo uses as overflow parking for its shopping center across the street.
According to his trial testimony, Aiello asked Elias if he could use a portion of Lot 1 for overflow parking for Adelo's shopping center. The area in question is approximately forty to fifty feet in length and approximately forty feet wide. The proofs showed that Elias, who did not testify at trial, reached an oral agreement for Aiello to use that portion of Lot 1 for parking. Apparently, the two men also had an expectation that at some point, if Lot 1 was further developed, there might be some shared usage of the area for parking to benefit both the shopping center and the convenience store. Aiello, meanwhile, allegedly agreed not to attempt to acquire Lot 3, which is adjacent to Lots 1 and 2, and was then owned by a third party.
Based on the alleged oral understanding, Aiello cleared and paved the area for the parking spots, and the six spots were striped. The clearing and paving activity took about seven nonconsecutive days, and, as the trial court found, was observed by Lewis as it took place. Adelo made use of the parking area for about nine years. During that time, Aiello performed weeding and other maintenance.
Adelo allegedly spent about $4,000 on improvements and maintenance relating to the parking spaces. However, Adelo made no monetary payments to Elias for the use of the spaces, and the company did not contribute to taxes or insurance on the property.
Eventually, Elias had a falling out with Lewis and began to have financial problems. Lot 1 went into foreclosure. Lewis, through another corporation, purchased Lot 1 at a sheriff's sale. The property was then transferred to plaintiff, 1952 Union Valley Road, LLC.
Subsequently, in 2000, Lewis bought Lot 3 from the heirs to an estate, for the purposes of a future possible expansion of his convenience store business. The disputed parking area is sandwiched between Lot 3 and Lot 1. Eventually, in 2004, Lewis objected to Adelo's continued use of the parking area. According to his trial testimony, Lewis wanted to use the disputed portion of Lot 1 to further develop his business, after purchasing the contiguous Lot 3. He claims to have since abandoned this plan.
Lewis originally placed rocks to block access to the parking spaces. The rocks were removed after Adelo obtained injunctive relief.
The dispute over the right to use the parking spaces went to litigation three times. The first two lawsuits, both instituted by ...