NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 16, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-2981-10.
Michael A. Oxman argued the cause for appellant (Becker Meisel, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Oxman and Martin L. Borosko, on the briefs).
William W. Northgrave argued the cause for respondents (McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Northgrave and Sean P. Duane, on the brief).
Before Judges Ashrafi and St. John.
Plaintiff 100 Paterson Realty, LLC (Paterson) appeals from the October 24, 2012 judgment entered in favor of defendants, City of Hoboken (City) and City Council of the City of Hoboken (Council) dismissing plaintiff's complaint in its entirety. In December 2011, plaintiff filed an order to show cause with amended verified complaint seeking declaratory relief and damages for inverse condemnation, temporary taking, pre-condemnation damages and malicious interference with prospective economic advantage. Plaintiff's claims proceeded to a four-day bench trial in June and July 2012. On September 13, 2012, the trial judge rendered an oral decision dismissing all claims for failure to sustain the burden of proof. On October 24, 2012, a judgment was entered dismissing plaintiff's verified complaint in its entirety. It is from that judgment that plaintiff appeals.
We briefly summarize the facts and procedural history based on the pretrial proceedings and evidence presented at trial.
Plaintiff is the owner of real property located at 100-108 Paterson Avenue, Block 11, Lot 9 (the Property) in Hoboken. The Property consists of approximately 6000 square feet, which contains a 3000 square-foot commercial building. Plaintiff acquired the Property in 2006 for $2 million with an intention to develop it as a residential project. Plaintiff's principal, Ignatius Salvemini, had developed roughly a dozen properties in and around Hoboken since 1996. From the time of plaintiff's purchase through the litigation underlying this appeal, the Property has been zoned as "R3, " which would permit residential development. Salvemini was aware at the time of purchase that under the 2004 Hoboken Master Plan, the Property fell within an area that had been designated as potential parkland.
In 2006, plaintiff submitted its first application to the Hoboken Zoning Board of Adjustment (the Zoning Board) for approval of a fourteen-unit project. After the initial Zoning Board hearing, plaintiff decided to withdraw its application in response to "a myriad of issues that surfaced, " including "push back" from members of the public. Salvemini testified that "rather than have an adversarial relationship [with the community, ] I would go back and make a few minor tweaks and adjustments."
After withdrawing its initial zoning application, in response to an open letter from the Hoboken Historical Museum & Cultural Center (the Museum) placed in a local publication soliciting space from local developers, Salvemini met with Museum officials to explore the possibility of an alternative development project on the Property. That project, named Museum Place by plaintiff, envisioned a "ten-story mixed use development" in which plaintiff would donate the first two levels for museum space, with an additional thirty-two units of residential housing sited above.
On November 5, 2007, plaintiff filed a second application with the Zoning Board, which included requests for multiple variances before the Museum Place project could proceed. Following negotiations, Salvemini and representatives from the Museum executed a letter of intent in February 2008 to pursue the Museum Place project. A hearing before the Zoning Board was scheduled for June 17, 2008. However, before the hearing took place, the Council convened a special meeting on June 11, 2008, which would have significant ramifications to plaintiff's proposed Museum Place project.
The Council first adopted a resolution (the Block 11 Resolution) supporting the acquisition of Block 11 properties -including the Property — for use as "open space, " that is, parkland. The Council then adopted a second resolution authorizing appraisals of certain properties earmarked in the master plan as potential parkland, which included the Property. At that same meeting, the Council introduced an ordinance on first reading amending Hoboken's zoning laws (the Open Space Ordinance), which would rezone the Property from R3 to open space. Included in the Block 11 Resolution was a request that the Zoning Board "postpone consideration of all applications concerning properties referenced in [the Open Space Ordinance]." Consequently, plaintiff's application hearing was initially adjourned, and later removed from the Zoning Board's agenda, pending a final determination by the City of the ...