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LLC v. Township of Readington

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

September 4, 2013

388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, S. CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., FALLONE AT SPRING MEADOW, LLC, COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Respondents, and MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., Defendant-Appellant, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., FALLONE AT SPRING MEADOW, LLC, COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Respondents, and BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellant, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, and SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, Defendants-Appellants, and BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., FALLONE AT SPRING MEADOW, LLC, COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Respondents, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant/ Cross-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., TOLL N.J. I, LLC, and COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY AT READINGTON, READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, and RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, Defendants-Respondents/ Cross-Appellants, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., FALLONE AT SPRING MEADOW, LLC, and COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, Defendants-Respondents, and LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Appellants, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., FALLONE AT SPRING MEADOW, LLC, COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Respondents, and RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, Defendant-Appellant, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Respondents, and FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, and TOLL N.J. I, LLC, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants. 388 ROUTE 22 READINGTON REALTY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, SEWER ADVISORY COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF READINGTON, BELLEMEAD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, MERCK SHARPE & DOHME CORP., f/k/a MERCK & CO., INC., READINGTON COMMONS, LLC, C. DELVECCHIO, SCOTT CARBONE, A. CARBONE, ROLF ACKERMAN, VALLEY NATIONAL BANK, RYLAND DEVELOPERS, LLC, FALLONE PROPERTIES, LLC, URB-FI DEVELOPMENT CORP., FALLONE AT SPRING MEADOW, LLC, and COUNTRY CLASSICS LEGACY READINGTON, Defendants-Respondents, and LOT 3 DEVELOPMENT, LLC, and WINFIELD MANAGEMENT, Defendants-Appellants, and RAMYZ TADROS, SHADIA SAMAAN, WHITEHOUSE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, WLADYSLAW ZACIOS, JOANN ZACIOS, BETTY ANN COEBLER, CODDINGTON HOMES CO., INC., TOM JR. PROPERTY, INC., and WPS REALTY, LLC, Defendants.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 15, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hunterdon County, Docket No. L-0751-10.

Christopher John Stracco argued the cause for appellant Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., f/k/a Merck & Co., Inc. in A-0351-11 and respondent in A-0597-11 (Day Pitney, LLP, attorneys; Mr. Stracco, Jennifer Gorga Capone and Amy Valentine McClelland, on the briefs).

Glenn S. Pantel argued the cause for appellant Bellemead Development Corp. in A-0352-11 and respondent in A-0597-11 (Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, attorneys; Mr. Pantel, Karen A. Denys and Monica Wahba, on the briefs).

Ballard & Dragan, attorneys for appellants Township of Readington, Township Committee of the Township of Readington and Sewer Advisory Committee of the Township of Readington in A-0469-11, rely on the briefs of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., f/k/a Merck & Co., Inc. and Bellemead Development Corp.

Lawrence S. Berger argued the cause for appellant/cross-respondent 388 Route 22 Readington Realty Holdings, LLC in A-0597-11; respondents Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., f/k/a Merck & Co., Inc., Bellemead Development Corp., Township of Readington, Township Committee of the Township of Readington and Sewer Advisory Committee of the Township of Readington, 388 Route 22 Readington Realty Holdings, LLC, Winfield Management, Lot 3 Development, LLC, Ryland Developers, LLC, Fallone Properties, LLC and Toll N.J. I, LLC (Berger & Bornstein, PA, attorneys; Mr. Berger, on the briefs).

Deborah B. Rosenthal argued the cause for appellants Winfield Management and Lot 3 Development, LLC in A-0647-11 and appellant Winfield Management in A-1384-11 (Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC, attorneys; Robert C. Ward, on the briefs).

Alexander G. Fisher argued the cause for appellant Ryland Developers, LLC in A-0707-11 and respondent in A-0597-11; respondents/cross-appellants Country Classics Legacy at Readington, LLC and Readington Commons II, LLC in A-0597-11 (Mauro, Savo, Camerino, Grant & Schalk, PA, attorneys; Darren J. Leotti, on the briefs).

Thomas W. Sweet argued the cause for appellants Fallone Properties, LLC and Toll N.J. I, LLC in A-0719-11.

Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs, LLC, attorneys for respondents Scott Carbone, A. Carbone and C. DelVecchio, rely on the briefs of all co-respondents.

Before Judges Grall, Simonelli and Koblitz.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiff, 388 Route 22 Readington Realty Holdings, LLC, filed an action in lieu of prerogative writs challenging defendant Township of Readington's denial of its request for allocation of sewer rights held but not used by property-owner defendants.[3] When plaintiff applied for sewer rights, the unused capacity was contractually committed to other property owners. Those contracts, authorized by Readington's sewer allocation ordinance, section 187-26 of Readington's Code, financed the creation of the unused capacity at issue here. See Readington, N.J., Code § 187-26 (2003), http://ecode360.com/8746972. The Township denied plaintiff capacity because there were no additional sewer rights available for allocation by contract and the Township did not have reason for disturbing the contractual rights of those who paid for the capacity.

Plaintiff, in the prerogative writs action, raised facial and as applied challenges to the Township's sewer capacity allocation ordinance, section 187-26. Defendants sought dismissal of the complaint as untimely filed and barred by equitable estoppel, laches, and principles of claim preclusion.

On cross-motions treated as motions for summary judgment, the trial court remanded for development of the record and supplementation of the Township's findings and reasoning. After receiving the Township Committee's resolution, entered after a public hearing on remand, the court denied defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint as barred and plaintiff's facial challenge. The court determined, however, that the Township arbitrarily applied section 187-26 in this case and entered a writ of mandamus directing the Township to "exercise its discretion" and "provide a reasoned basis" for recapturing sewer rights "not yet in use." [4]

Appeals were filed by plaintiff, the Township defendants, and several property-owner defendants — Merck Sharp & Dohme, Corp. (f/k/a Merck & Co., Inc.), Bellemead Development Corporation, Country Classics Legacy at Readington, Readington Commons, II, LLC, Ryland Developers, LLC, Lot 3 Development, LLC, Winfield Management, Fallone Properties, LLC, and Toll N.J. I, LLC (substituted for Fallone at Spring Meadow, LLC).[5]Between them, they challenge all of the court's determinations. We now consolidate the appeals.

In First Peoples Bank v. Township of Medford, 126 N.J. 413, 420 (1991), a case addressing facial and as applied challenges to a sewer allocation ordinance similar to section 187-26, the Court recognized that a municipality has an obligation "to assure that sewer permits are either used or repurchased so that others may use them." Informed by that decision and by a recent amendment to the Permit Extension Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 40:55D-136.1 to -136.6 (amended by L. 2012, c. 48, §§ 1-5), we reject the facial challenge and conclude that plaintiff failed to overcome the presumption of validity afforded to municipal action. For that reason, we vacate the writ and dismiss the complaint.[6]

I

The property owned by plaintiff and the property-owner defendants is an area of Readington where wastewater is treated either by septic systems or by the Readington-Lebanon Sewerage Authority (RLSA). RLSA was established in 1976 pursuant to the Sewerage Authorities Law, N.J.S.A. 40:14A-1 to -45. N.J.S.A. 40:14A-7, -23; Readington, N.J., Code ยงยง 52-1 to -7 (2003), http://ecode360.com/8745841. Readington Township has access to a fixed portion of RLSA's daily capacity to treat gallons of wastewater; its current share is 939, 000 gallons per day ...


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