On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Bergen County, Docket No. C-306-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued October 6, 2010 - Decided Before Judges Fuentes and Ashrafi.
In 1990, defendants Joseph and Gloria Miele purchased a tract of land adjacent to their business, the Miele Sanitation Company, from defendant the Borough of Closter ("the Borough"). The deed conveying title to the Mieles contained certain restrictions on the use of the property.
In 2008, plaintiff brought legal action against all of the named defendants seeking a judicial declaration that the Mieles had violated the deed restrictions, thus triggering a reversionary clause that returned title to the property to the Borough. The matter was tried as a bench trial before the Chancery Division, General Equity Part. After hearing from the witnesses called by plaintiff, the trial court entered judgment in favor of defendants and dismissed plaintiff's complaint.
Plaintiff now appeals, arguing that the court erred by not finding that Miele Sanitation violated the covenants in the deed requiring it to remove an office trailer from its property and prohibiting the placement of compactors or other forms of solid waste activities. We are not persuaded by plaintiff's arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by the trial judge. We gather the following facts from the evidence presented at trial.
The minutes of a regular meeting of the Council of the Borough of Closter ("the Council") conducted on May 25, 1988, reflect that Joseph Miele expressed an interest through his attorney in acquiring a strip of land owned by the Borough measuring approximately 50 x 350 feet and adjacent to the property where Miele Sanitation and its recycling facility were located. The parties thereafter engaged in negotiations concerning certain matters the Borough wanted addressed as part of its decision to sell this tract of land to Miele*fn1 .
By letter dated June 20, 1988, the Borough's attorney James
A. Farber wrote to the Mayor and the Council to memorialize certain discussions he had had with Miele's attorney concerning the sale of the land. Specifically, Farber indicated that the deed to Miele would contain restrictions that the premises would be used for an office and garage and other uses permitted by the Borough Zoning Ordinances, but specifically prohibiting compactors, bailers [sic] or other facilities with which solid waste activities are conducted. In addition, the deed would have a reverter clause so that if the owner of the property, including any successors to Mr. Miele, were to violate the restrictions, the property would automatically revert to the Borough of Closter.
The trailer, which is presently located on Miele's existing property, would be removed and Miele would agree that no solid waste activity will be conducted on the portion of the property where the trailer now sits.
Farber suggested that the Council discuss the matter at its next meeting.
The record before the trial court also included a letter signed by Miele and addressed to his "fellow residents" of the Borough.*fn2 Through this letter, Miele sought "to refute the mis-statements [sic], distortions and outright lies" contained in certain "bulletins published by Jesse Rosenblum," concerning Miele's purchase of the tract of land. Among the statements set forth in this letter, Miele made the following representation concerning the trailer that was then situated on a section of the land occupied by Miele Sanitation:
The trailer on the property I presently own on Railroad Avenue which is used as an office, would have to be removed and the area it now ...