First Ridge Alliance, a group of residents in the Afterglow neighborhood of Verona, has filed a suit to reverse the Town Council’s May 15 settlement with Spectrum360. The suit was filed by Anne Studholme, a Roseland-based lawyer who specializes in affordable housing and who addressed the Council during its meeting last Wednesday. Studholme said then that if the Council approved the plan, she would file suit.
The plan approved by the Council is for 200 market-rate one- and two-bedroom units at the site, which is at the corner of Bloomfield and Sunset avenues. The settlement includes a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement and comes with a $6.25 million payment from Spectrum360 to Verona, which the town would use to finance the construction of the planned affordable housing development on the Cameco property. If the Verona Planning Board fails to designate the Spectrum site as an area in need of redevelopment–the precursor to a PILOT agreement–the developer that Spectrum360 is selling to could then build 300 units, 15% of which would be affordable housing, and there would be no money for the Cameco project. Though the Council clearly did not like the A/B plan, there was concern that a failure to adopt it would open Verona to development on several sites in town for perhaps as many as 700 housing units.
The lawsuit says that “Verona and its Council seem to be under a mis-impression that, even if Verona commits to pay the entire cost of the Cameco site, and enables the other mechanisms, it must still settle with Spectrum, or else face trial and the risk of a “builder’s remedy.” This fear is unfounded. Verona is free to settle with some of the landowning intervenors, or all of them, or none of them, so long as it can produce a housing plan the court will approve.” The document says the Verona approved the settlement resolution out of an “unwarranted fear of Spectrum” and did not know whether the Fair Share Housing Center, the key party to all affordable housing litigation state-wide “would support the contemplated settlement.”
The suit says that Verona failed to meet its noticing requirement under the Open Public Meetings Act and that the adoption of Resolution 2019-101 was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable”. It is seeking to void the approval.
Township Manager Matthew Cavallo, reached by text message, declined to comment on the suit.