WILLIAM H. COOPER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
LAKEHURST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, Defendant-Respondent
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 10, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Ocean County, Docket No. C-170-11.
William H. Cooper, appellant pro se.
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Before Judges Alvarez and Carroll.
Plaintiff William H. Cooper appeals from the judgment of the trial court dismissing his complaint with prejudice at the conclusion of a two-day bench trial. We affirm.
We briefly summarize the relevant procedural history and the facts based on the limited record before us.
In late April 2010, plaintiff and defendant Lakehurst Presbyterian Church entered into a written realtor's form of contract pursuant to which plaintiff agreed to purchase a property owned by the church located at 212 Pine Street, Lakehurst, New Jersey (the property), for the sum of $93, 500. The church also owned an adjoining property at 101 Orchard Street, Lakehurst. On May 3, 2010, plaintiff's counsel "disapproved" the contract and expressed concern about a common driveway between the properties. Among other things, plaintiff's counsel sought to review a current survey and the driveway easement. Negotiations between the parties ensued, and by letter dated July 15, 2010, it was agreed that the attorney review period was concluded. The church agreed that it would seek subdivision approval from the appropriate municipal land use board to relocate the lot line so that no easement would be necessary. The church then proceeded with the subdivision application. While plaintiff has not included a copy of the Land Use Board's determination in his appendix, the trial judge's decision notes the following:
On October 25, 2010, as documented in the business record which consisted of a true and exact copy of the Resolution, the Land Use Board of the Borough of Lakehurst memorialized its decision which granted in part and denied in part the defendant Church's subdivision plan. The Land Use Board, as such, denied the Church's request for variances and waivers from the requirement to provide curbing around the entire parking area perimeter of the property. Additionally, the Land Use Board required a buffer area to be installed between the two properties. Testimony presented from the Pastor of the defendant Church indicated that said requirement would have eliminated approximately twenty parking spaces from the Church's parking lot.
. . . .
Thereafter the Professional Design Services, LLC engineering firm submitted to the defendant Presbyterian Church its February 1, 2011 estimate as to various anticipated costs necessary to complete the various requirements for the site plan subdivision land use approval. Those costs entailed - -were memorialized, rather, in D-3 in evidence and were $46, 000. Testimony indicated there were other costs and expenses  including but not limited to requirements, engineering fees, and the like for an amended Pinelands application. Applications and requests before other agencies were not waived by the Lakehurst Land Use Board but also were required of the defendant Church, which requirements entailed other costs. Also as per the testimony, as of February 1, 2011 the Church had expended already $10, 976.60 which included engineering plans, permit applications, and counsel fees in order to present the proposal before the Borough of Lakehurst Land Use Board.
Due to the unexpected conditions and expenses attached to the Lakehurst Land Use Board's approvals, the church advised plaintiff that it was not economically feasible to proceed. The church further advised plaintiff that it was, however, ready, willing and able to sell the property pursuant to the original contract, with an access agreement to the garage. Plaintiff rejected this proposal, positing that the church was obligated to proceed in accordance with ...