Habitate, LLC v. City of Bridgeton, 080620 NJSUP, A-0706-18T3

Docket Nº:A-0706-18T3
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM
Party Name:HABITATE, LLC, and THOMAS MARTIN, individually, Plaintiffs/Appellants, v. CITY OF BRIDGETON, and RENEWABLE JERSEY, LLC, Defendants/Respondents, and ROBERT REYERS, and CLAUS AND REYERS COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation, Defendants.
Attorney:Keith Alan Bonchi argued the cause for appellants (Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi & Gill, attorneys; Keith Alan Bonchi, of counsel and on the briefs; Elliott Joseph Almanza, on the briefs). Matthew Toto argued the cause for respondent City of Bridgeton (Traub Lieberman Straus...
Judge Panel:Before Judges Alvarez, Nugent, and Suter.
Case Date:August 06, 2020
Court:Superior Court of New Jersey
 
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HABITATE, LLC, and THOMAS MARTIN, individually, Plaintiffs/Appellants,

v.

CITY OF BRIDGETON, and RENEWABLE JERSEY, LLC, Defendants/Respondents,

and

ROBERT REYERS, and CLAUS AND REYERS COMPANY, a Delaware Corporation, Defendants.

No. A-0706-18T3

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 6, 2020

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 17, 2019

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, Docket No. L-0517-13.

Keith Alan Bonchi argued the cause for appellants (Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi & Gill, attorneys; Keith Alan Bonchi, of counsel and on the briefs; Elliott Joseph Almanza, on the briefs).

Matthew Toto argued the cause for respondent City of Bridgeton (Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP, attorneys; Matthew Toto, on the brief).

Bridget A. Sykes argued the cause for respondent Renewable Jersey, LLC (Fox Rothschild LLP, attorneys; Jack Plackter, of counsel and on the brief; Bridget A. Sykes, on the brief).

Before Judges Alvarez, Nugent, and Suter.

PER CURIAM

Plaintiffs, Habitate, LLC and Thomas Martin (collectively "Habitate"), filed this prerogative writs action to challenge a City of Bridgeton resolution authorizing a corrective deed, and quiet title to a parcel of land in the City. The parcel is within the Bridgeton Municipal Port District Redevelopment Area and controls access to two other parcels in the Port District. Habitate previously attempted, unsuccessfully, to acquire the parcel. Defendant, Renewable Jersey, LLC, ("Renewable") the redeveloper, owns the parcel, which it acquired after Bridgeton authorized the corrective deed.

The trial court dismissed Habitate's prerogative writs complaint on summary judgment, finding no genuinely disputed issue of material fact on the motion record and concluding defendants Bridgeton and Renewable were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Habitate appeals. We affirm.

Because we write primarily for the parties, who are fully familiar with this case, and because the lengthy procedural history and complex factual backdrop are detailed in two other opinions, Habitate, LLC v. R&R Holdings, LLC, No. A-4262-12 (App. Div. Feb. 6, 2015) ("Habitate I"), and Habitate, LLC v. City of Bridgeton, No. A-2296-15 (App. Div. July 21, 2017) ("Habitate II"), it is unnecessary to recount the case history in its entirety. The following synopsis will suffice.

In 1987, Bridgeton adopted the Port District Redevelopment Plan for its Port District. The property at issue here, 50 Grove Street, designated as Block 132, Lot 1.02 on Bridgeton's tax map (the "property"), was within the Port District. Habitate I, slip op. at 2. Years later, after acquiring title to the property in a tax sale foreclosure, Bridgeton deeded it to a purported limited liability company, R&R Holdings, LLC ("R&R"), on December 27, 2004. Defendant Reyers was purportedly R&R's president. Id. at 4. The agreement of sale between Bridgeton and R&R committed Reyers to creating forty new full-time jobs at the property. Ibid.

Reyers proved to be disreputable. In 2007, the United States filed an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit securities and mail fraud and one count of money laundering, charges to which he negotiated pleas and for which he was sentenced to probationary terms. Central to this appeal, when Bridgeton conveyed title of the property to R&R in 2004, the company did not exist. Ibid. Reyers, who had judgments against him, had requested title be placed in R&R so that he could avoid judgments attaching to the property. Ibid. Concerning the property, Reyers failed to fulfill the commitments he made in the agreement of sale between Bridgeton and R&R. R&R stopped paying taxes on the property. Id. at 4-5.

In April 2011, Renewable and Bridgeton entered into a redevelopment agreement in which Bridgeton designated Renewable as the Redeveloper of land within the Port District Redevelopment Plan, including the property. Id. at 5. In 2011 and 2012, Habitate acquired tax sale certificates for the property. Ibid. On February 17, 2012-the year following that in which Renewable became the redeveloper-Habitate filed a complaint to foreclose on a tax sale certificate. Renewable filed a motion to intervene. The trial court granted the motion. Habitate appealed. We affirmed. Id. at 2.

While Habitate I was pending, Habitate learned Renewable had acquired the property. Bridgeton City Council had approved a corrective deed to remedy the 2004 conveyance from Bridgeton to R&R, the non-existent company. Habitate filed a four-count complaint in lieu of prerogative writs challenging Bridgeton Council's action and the corrective deed. The trial court stayed the prerogative writs action pending the appeal in Habitate I. Following our decision in Habitate I, Habitate amended its prerogative writs complaint in which it added a fifth count.

Defendants, Reyers and Claus and Reyers Company ("Claus") defaulted. Habitate filed a motion to take discovery concerning Bridgeton's resolution authorizing the corrective deed, and Bridgeton and Renewable moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied Habitate's motion and granted Bridgeton's and Renewable's motions. Habitate appealed. We affirmed the trial court's...

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