Kaplan project still a source of conflict

Sayreville board
surprised by number
of units being built

Staff Writer

Sayreville board
surprised by number
of units being built


Staff Writer

Conflicting interpretations of a 1982 settlement agreement created unforeseen complications for Kaplan Cos. at a Feb. 18 appearance before the Sayreville Planning Board.

Two years ago, Kaplan Cos. proposed building six-story, mid-rise buildings in section five of its LaMer development and met disapproval from the board. A revised plan, which debuted last November, reducing the building height and size, prompted more positive reactions.

Representatives of Kaplan Cos. returned to the board last week with the plan discussed in November for an interim meeting with the board, a step that must be taken before the detailed engineering of the project can begin.

The design for section five includes a large three-story building with an internal parking garage and several smaller buildings on 19.5 acres of land. Residents of section five would park in the lots within the building, usually on the level of their residence.

"We’ve figured out a way to hide the number of cars required for such a unit. … People love this because they are covered, for the most part, and can park on the same level that they live," said David J. Minno, architect for Kaplan Cos. The upper floor of the parking garage will not be covered, said Minno.

Visitors would be required to park in a small, front parking lot and enter through a central lobby.

Section five in its entirety encompasses 48.5 acres, with 29.46 acres left as open space due to wetlands. The central building in the section will have nearly 150 units, with a total of 290 units for section five.

Stephen Barcan, attorney for Kaplan, spoke of the company’s intention to wrap up its agreement with Sayreville in the next few years, reaching the 1,524 units permitted by the settlement.

"Are you saying that within the next five years there will be 480 more units?" asked board member Thomas Pollando. "We’re talking $7,000 per child [in education costs], and the schools can’t handle that. We have to look at that."

Board member Michael D’Addio then approached Kaplan with his perspective on the large building planned for section five.

"The settlement agreement clearly states a maximum of 10 units per building. Are you saying this doesn’t apply?" asked D’Addio, referring to a clause that specifies that buildings be limited to four to 10 units. "Either we’re going to live by the settlement agreement and all of its restrictions, or we aren’t."

"Nobody ever raised this before," Barcan said.

"Then you didn’t get caught," D’Addio said.

"That’s a pretty bold statement that we don’t subscribe to," Barcan replied.

Barcan told the board that Kaplan Cos. felt that the "four to 10" clause was an amendment to the agreement that referenced only the buildings in section two.

"The limitation is clearly pertaining to section two. There’s no way we would’ve agreed to those limitations. It defies logic to think that we would’ve gone against the terms of the original [settlement agreement]," Barcan said.

Barcan then told the board he would remove all variances in height, distance between buildings and borders from the section five application as a concession.

Board members, however, had already begun to question their own interpretations of the terms of the settlement agreement.

"There are up to 40 units in some of the buildings. And variances were never granted," said Jason Kaplan of the earlier sections of LaMer, approved without question to the number of units in each building.

"I believe there is some ambiguity here," said Planning Board Attorney James Hoebich.

"The attorney can give his opinion, the engineer can gave his opinion, the planner can give his opinion, but we make the decision," said board member Donald Newton.

Making little progress, the board went on to discuss traffic issues surrounding LaMer, including a traffic light at Ernston Road that must be installed before a certificate of occupancy for section four can be granted.

LaMer residents Scott Tabacco and Dan Buchanan addressed the board on the lack of gated security at LaMer, a feature that they said was advertised to buyers. The board encouraged Kaplan to settle the issue by implementing security as soon as possible.

"With all due respect, you control the HOA [homeowners’ association] at this time," said board member Mark Rasimowicz. "There have been people living here for 20 years and I think many of them were sold on the fact that this is a gated community."

"Have some communication with the homeowners’ association," said board member Thomas Tighe.

To end the session, the board passed a resolution, with a 6-to-3 vote, that Kaplan Cos. "continue pursuing the application, pursuing all issues brought up at this meeting." Board members D’Addio, Michael Macagnone and Rasimowicz opposed the resolution.

"This building is clearly in violation of the settlement agreement," said D’Addio with his opposing vote.

"The message the board is trying to send you for section six is no variances and no buildings with more than 10 units," board member Frank Bella said to Kaplan.

When questioned about the probable outcome of litigation against Kaplan Cos. to settle the discrepancy in the 1982 agreement, Hoebich told the board, "It would be a considerable cost. I can’t sit here and give you a definitive answer of whether we would win or lose. … You can guarantee that this is going to be appealed and dragged out in litigation."

Regarding the interpretation of the settlement, board member Matthew Kausch reminded the panel, "It comes down to this: Everybody on the board is going to have to make their own determination."