The redevelopment of the southernmost portion of Camp Osborn, held up in a legal battle with a neighbor from Lyndhurst Drive for nearly four years, was delayed again Wednesday night when no attorneys representing the objector appeared at a meeting of the township’s zoning board.
The objector, who is being represented by attorney Robert C. Shea, has argued for years that the 30 homes that burnt down on the plot should not be replaced. He took the case to court in 2015 after the zoning board approved 13 houses on the site, and was successful in having the approval vacated under a doctrine known as “rezoning by variance.” He is still fighting the matter after the heirs of Bob Osborn, who died during the course of the litigation, sold the property and reduced the number of homes proposed to just seven. The portion of the Camp in question was owned by Osborn and residents lived there under a land-lease agreement. The new homes will be individually owned. A separate application will eventually be heard by the board on the bulk of Camp Osborn which stands just south of Brick Beach III along Route 35.
John Jackson, the attorney who represented Osborn and now its successor, RTS IV, LLC, of Totowa, was visibly frustrated by the fact that the hearing Wednesday was adjourned because his adversary did not show up at the meeting. Jackson has long argued that smaller homes on the site would give more people an opportunity to live near the ocean and the objector may be looking to keep the plot accessible only to the ultra-welathy. The board, for its part, has already expressed its support of the seven homes via preliminary approval, and the project needs only simple testimony to confirm that the already-approved plans have not changed to receive final approval.
Objectors during zoning board hearings have the right to present their case and be present before the board, however Wednesday’s no-show did not sit well with Jackson.
“The objector isn’t here and hasn’t sent an attorney here, on their peril,” Jackson said. “I believe if there was ever a case for a board denying an adjournment, this is it.”
Shea, the lead attorney, recently had back surgery and will not be available to appear until February. Meanwhile, attorney Dina Vicari, of his firm, appeared before a board in Berkeley Township on Wednesday night on a separate matter. Jackson said one of Shea’s other associates should have come to Brick.
Board Chairman Harvey Langer was, himself, distressed at the number of meetings it has taken to reach approval for the portion of the Camp that was lost to a fire during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He set the next hearing date for Jan. 29 and said the case will not be adjourned again.
“If they don’t show up, we’re not going to do this again,” said Langer. “The next time we meet, everyone has to be there, because we’re going to continue no matter what happens. There are no more excuses.”
Jackson said he may file for statutory approval of the project. In basic terms, statutory approval provides for automatic approval of a project if the case is not heard by a certain deadline, which has now passed.
“You have every right to file for that,” said Langer.
As it currently stands, the board will take up the matter at its Jan. 29 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex.