On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-7880-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Espinosa and Kennedy.
Plaintiff appeals from a judgment dismissing his action in lieu of prerogative writs against defendants and from an order granting defendants' applications for costs and counsel fees. In his complaint, plaintiff contended that the Closter Planning Board (Board) improperly granted an application for amended preliminary and final site plan and conditional use approval filed by defendant Temple Emanu-El (Temple) with respect to its property on Piermont Road in Closter.
Plaintiff's complaint asserted that the Temple's "valet parking plan has never been fully implemented . . . and is unworkable without trained valets actually parking the vehicles and taking keys" (count one); that "the Temple erected a metal fence extending 50 feet beyond their property and across [an unimproved municipal right of way]" thereby "aggrandizing [its] property" to the detriment of neighboring properties (count two); and that the Temple failed to secure variances required by its proposed "new storage space" and "nonconforming side yards" (count three). The trial judge entered a final pre-trial order on October 8, 2010, identifying the issues to be determined at trial as follows: whether the Board acted "arbitrarily, capriciously, and/or unreasonably" in granting the Temple's application and whether plaintiff's complaint was barred by the doctrines of res judicata, estoppel and
On December 10, 2010, trial was conducted and on February 25, 2011, Judge Alexander H. Carver III issued a comprehensive written opinion in which he made detailed findings of fact and concluded that each of plaintiff's claims had been the subject of prior complaints filed by plaintiff and had been decided against him. Consequently, he found that plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Judge Carver also determined that the Board had not acted arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably in granting the Temple's application and entered judgment dismissing plaintiff's complaint.
The Temple and the Board subsequently moved for counsel fees and costs pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1 and Rule 1:4-8, respectively. Judge Carver granted the applications and on June 10, 2011, entered an order granting $53,774.45 in fees and costs to the Temple and $8,329.13 in fees and costs to the Board.
Plaintiff has filed many complaints against the Borough of Closter, its Planning Board and the Temple over the years. In fact, plaintiff has been barred since 1995 by an order of the Law Division, Bergen County, from filing any civil complaint without first obtaining judicial approval. Apparently, the order was entered because plaintiff had filed many frivolous civil complaints, mostly against the Borough of Closter, where he resides. Rosenblum v. Borough of Closter, 333 N.J. Super. 385, 387 (App. Div. 2000). We advert to this fact because it bears, to a degree, on the issues raised in this appeal.
The Temple operates a religious school, a banquet hall, and a synagogue on its fourteen acre property on Piermont Road in Closter. In 1995 the Temple received preliminary site plan and conditional use approval for the structure that presently exists on the property. The Temple received final site plan approval in 1998. The Board's 1998 resolution granting final site plan approval declared that parking for 185 vehicles was "sufficient and acceptable", and that the Temple would be required to institute a valet parking plan with an additional 93 parking spaces for the three calendar days comprising the "High Holy Days," for a total of 278 spaces.
Thereafter, the Board approved amendments to its prior conditional use and final site plan approval reducing the permanent parking and valet parking plans to 266 spaces. The amendments were made at the request of the Closter Police and Fire Departments and the Board ...