2008-07-23 / Front Page

Court rules for Matawan in train station suit

Legal challenge over developer for Aberdeen Matawan station
BY ERIN O. STATTEL Staff Writer

MATAWAN - It seems as if the legal maneuvering over the Aberdeen Matawan Train Station redevelopment has been settled, at least for now.

According to court documents, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled July 14 that the borough of Matawan and its council did not act improperly when they passed a resolution in December 2002 designating the Columbia Group as the redeveloper for the train station.

"I am gratified," said Mayor Paul Buccellato. "I think it is a positive for the borough."

Silver Oaks Properties Inc. was hired by the township of Aberdeen to act as redeveloper for the township's 60 acres of the transit village redevelopment project.

According to court documents, the two municipalities entered into a partnership on the project, and Aberdeen was designated the lead, hiring Silver Oaks after an interview process.

In turn, Matawan hired the Columbia Group, after the interview process, to manage the borough's 45 acres of redevelopment surrounding the train station.

At the July 15 Borough Council meeting, Councilman Robert Bunyon, liaison to the redevelopment committee, recapped the legal suit.

According to Bunyon and the court documents, Silver Oaks Properties claimed that Matawan's hiring of the Columbia Group was ineffective because Aberdeen had already hired Silver Oaks, and the developer filed suit against the borough and its council and development team.

A Superior Court judge dismissed that suit in January 2007.

Silver Oaks appealed the decision, maintaining that the borough and its council had acted "capriciously" and had hired the Columbia Group with urging from state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-13th District). Matawan claimed Aberdeen Township acted unilaterally when they hired Silver Oaks without the borough's input.

On July 14, that appeal was denied by an Appellate Division judge.

Buccellato, who was named in the suit because he served on the Borough Council when the complaint was filed, announced at the July 15 council meeting that while this was a step in the right direction, Silver Oaks still has 20 days to file an appeal with the Superior Court.

"We will wait and see what transpires in the 20 days," he said in a later interview. "The train station issue is an important issue, in my belief, for Matawan and Aberdeen because it will generate taxes and improve the infrastructure."

Borough Attorney James Aaron, of Ansell, Zaro, Grimm and Aaron in Ocean Township, explained that the likelihood of another judge hearing the appeal was slim.

"I can't see a judge hearing this again," he commented at the meeting.

Mayor David Sobel of Aberdeen also remarked on the recent Appellate Court decision.

"What this decision says is that the municipalities have the right to choose whomever they want for this project," he said.

According to Sobel, Silver Oaks is still the developer for Aberdeen's portion of the project.

"They are still our developer," he said.

The Columbia Group has also teamed up with K. Hovnanian and Mack-Cali Realty Corp. as the redevelopers for Matawan's portion of the project, said Borough Administrator Fred Carr.

Carr explained that K. Hovnanian would be responsible for the residential portion, the Columbia Group would be responsible for the office space built and Mack-Cali would take care of the commercial and retail venues.

The suit that was originally filed in January 2003 named Matawan Borough Council members Michael Cannon, Debra Buragina, Joseph Penniplede, Paul Buccellato, Donna Gould and Sharon Roselli. The suit also named K. Hovnanian Cos., Mack-Cali and the Columbia Group.

Aberdeen Township was also named in the suit as was the NJT Corp., a division of New Jersey Transit, which owns the Matawan Aberdeen Train Station. another judge hearing the appeal was slim.

"I can't see a judge hearing this again," he commented at the meeting.

Mayor David Sobel of Aberdeen also remarked on the recent Appellate Court decision.

"What this decision says is that the municipalities have the right to choose whomever they want for this project," he said.

According to Sobel, Silver Oaks is still the developer for Aberdeen's portion of the project.

"They are still our developer," he said.

The Columbia Group has also teamed up with K. Hovnanian and Mack-Cali Realty Corp. as the redevelopers for Matawan's portion of the project, said Borough Administrator Fred Carr.

Carr explained that K. Hovnanian would be responsible for the residential portion, the Columbia Group would be responsible for the office space built and Mack-Cali would take care of the commercial and retail venues.

The suit that was originally filed in January 2003 named Matawan Borough Council members Michael Cannon, Debra Buragina, Joseph Penniplede, Paul Buccellato, Donna Gould and Sharon Roselli. The suit also named K. Hovnanian Cos., Mack-Cali and the Columbia Group.

Aberdeen Township was also named in the suit as was the NJT Corp., a division of New Jersey Transit, which owns the Aberdeen Matawan Train Station.

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