Category Archives: Town Center

Azzolina may sell liquor license in Middletown

Another brutal court fight ends with Middletown coming out as the loser.
Back in 1998, before all the infighting and bad blood between life long resident and former NJ State Asemblyman Joe Azzolina and the Republicans that run Middletown, the township issued a 3rd liquor license to Mr. Azzolina’s company, Circus Liquors Inc. 
In 2005 when the battle over Mr. Azzolina’s “Town Center” project was boiling over, Middletown “realized” that the 3rd liqour license that they issued was illegal because the State limits the number of licenses a person or company can hold to two, so they wanted it back.
Mr. Azzolina said “No”, he paid the town for it, it was his and he would sell it. 
This of course sparked another lengthy and expensive court fight, that the township hoped would force the Azzolina family to cave in under yet another retaliatory, expense and pressure filled, drawn out legal battle.
Last year it seemed that Middeltown won the battle when the State Appellate Court ruled in favor of Middletown.  Not conceding that the battle was lost, Joe Azzolina appealed the case to the State Supreme Court.
So, in today’s Asbury Park Press comes word that the Supreme Courts has made it’s decision. 
The Justices ruled unanimously yesterday to overturn the lower courts ruling, which would have allowed Middeltown to confiscate the illegal liquor license and sell it to another party.  
Once again Joe Azzolina comes out on top and wins the war. He can now sell the lquor license himself. 
No doubt, this loss cost Middletown big time legal fees that could have gone to better uses if they would have just swallowed their pride and allowed Azzolina to sell the license himself in the first place. But because of the hard feelings and bad blood between the ruling Middeltown GOP and the Azzolina family over “Town Center” they decided to fight him in court.
This is just another example of how the Republicans have screwed Middletown over the years. And when you think of it, the one to have made out the most from this is Bernie Reilly, the Township Attorney, it must have made him a fortune. 

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Joe Azzolina, liquor license, Middletown Republicans, state supreme court, Town Center

>N.J. high court denies Town Center appeals:Mountain Hill project may now move forward

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It looks like the efforts of  Middletown Township has fallen short. Its attempt to stop life long resident and former State Assemblyman Joshep Azzolina and his family from going ahead with thier long sought after Town Center project was  again struck down by the courts. 

Below is the story from the Independent:

BY JAMIE ROMM -In what may be the final blow for opponents of the Town Center project, the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to hear appeals by the Middletown Township government challenging the project.

The denial lets stand a lower court decision that will allow the mixed-use development to go forward.

The state Supreme Court released three decisions on Jan. 20 denying appeals by the Middletown Township Committee, the township Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The appeals sought to overturn a ruling by the Appellate Division of state Superior Court issued Sept. 10 in favor of the Town Center project proposed by Mountain Hill LLC for Route 35 north at Kings Highway East.

“We are grateful that the Appellate Division and Supreme Court agreed with my client that Middletown and its two boards acted improperly standing in the way of this amazing project,” Mountain Hill’s attorney Gary F. Fox, of Ocean Township, said in a press release. “I give tremendous credit to my client for not giving up when it was unsuccessful at the trial court level.”

Fox said in a press release issued last week that the decision validates his client as well as what he has been saying over the past decade: that the Town Center project is a valid project.

“This case is an example of why appellate courts exist; to correct errors made at the trial court level,” Fox said in the release. “Now it’s time to move ahead and get this project going.”

The plan currently before the Middletown Planning Board proposes approximately 1.4 million square feet of retail space and 200 residential apartments.

The appellate court had ruled that formerMayor Joan Smith should not have had a vote on the Planning Board hearing to rezone former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina Sr.’s property from a town center to an active adult community, because her title company had prior business dealings with Mountain Hill.

“We conclude that Smith had a disqualifying conflict of interest that infected not only her official actions in 2001 but also those in 2004,” the opinion stated. “As a consequence, the 2004 Master Plan and both 2004 AAC ordinances are invalid and of no effect.”

Former Middletown Township Attorney Bernard Reilly said last October, when filing the appeal with the Supreme Court, that he would have to prove that Smith did not have a conflict of interest in voting against the Town Center proposal.

The township argued that there was no conflict of interest because her business relationship with members of Mountain Hill in the past was minor and occurred many years prior.

The Supreme Court decision left in place the appellate court’s decision overruling trial court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson, who had allowed Middletown to rezone the Town Center project out of existence.

The appellate panel ruled entirely in Mountain Hill’s favor, overturning the trial court decisions, invalidating the rezoning, the Master Plan and numerous rulings by the Zoning Board.

The decisions end Middletown’s right to appeal and give a green light to Mountain Hill to proceed with its Town Center project without any further interference from the township.

The township’s December 2008 affording housing plan includes the Town Center tract and anticipates it will provide at least 400 residential apartment units of which 80 would be deemed affordable and go toward its state-mandated affordable housing obligation.

Mountain Hill and Middletown have battled in court over development of the property for more than a decade.

On Sept. 30, the Township Committee unanimously agreed to petition the New Jersey Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that the project could go forward.

The Sept. 10 decision by Appellate Division Judge C.L. Miniman invalidated the township’s 2004 master plan and directed that the 1993 master plan be the one the township would have to follow. The court said the Planning Board should have heard Mountain Hill’s January 2003 application.

The court overturned a 2006 decision by Lawson who ruled the Planning Board should follow the 2004 master plan, which changed the zoning to an active adult community and blocked the Town Center development.

On Oct. 1, 2008, the Planning Board passed a resolution reaffirming its 2004 master plan, which does not permit the proposed $150 million, 137-acre mixed-use development.

Mountain Hill, which is controlled by members of the Azzolina family, sought to overturn a zoning change adopted by the Middletown Township Committee about five years ago to stop the project from getting off the ground.

According to Fox, the Azzolina family acquired this property over a period of many years between 1954 and 1993 with the goal of building a shopping center.

Fox said the 1993 master plan supported the Town Center project while the 2004 master plan did not permit it.

On Oct 31, 2003, the Planning Board denied Mountain Hill the ability to file any more applications for the Town Center.

The revised master plan in 2004 was approved to establish a model for land use in Middletown and infuriated proponents of the town center development.

The plan, unanimously adopted by the Planning Board on Jan. 29, 2003, was a policy document “to serve as a development and conservation guide for the 24,000-some acres that comprise the township,” as described in the plan.

See story>>> Here

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Filed under Joseph Azzloina, Middletown, Mountain Hill LLC, New Jersey Supreme Court, the Independent, Town Center

N.J. high court denies Town Center appeals:Mountain Hill project may now move forward


It looks like the efforts of  Middletown Township has fallen short. Its attempt to stop life long resident and former State Assemblyman Joshep Azzolina and his family from going ahead with thier long sought after Town Center project was  again struck down by the courts. 

Below is the story from the Independent:

BY JAMIE ROMM -In what may be the final blow for opponents of the Town Center project, the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to hear appeals by the Middletown Township government challenging the project.

The denial lets stand a lower court decision that will allow the mixed-use development to go forward.

The state Supreme Court released three decisions on Jan. 20 denying appeals by the Middletown Township Committee, the township Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The appeals sought to overturn a ruling by the Appellate Division of state Superior Court issued Sept. 10 in favor of the Town Center project proposed by Mountain Hill LLC for Route 35 north at Kings Highway East.

“We are grateful that the Appellate Division and Supreme Court agreed with my client that Middletown and its two boards acted improperly standing in the way of this amazing project,” Mountain Hill’s attorney Gary F. Fox, of Ocean Township, said in a press release. “I give tremendous credit to my client for not giving up when it was unsuccessful at the trial court level.”

Fox said in a press release issued last week that the decision validates his client as well as what he has been saying over the past decade: that the Town Center project is a valid project.

“This case is an example of why appellate courts exist; to correct errors made at the trial court level,” Fox said in the release. “Now it’s time to move ahead and get this project going.”

The plan currently before the Middletown Planning Board proposes approximately 1.4 million square feet of retail space and 200 residential apartments.

The appellate court had ruled that formerMayor Joan Smith should not have had a vote on the Planning Board hearing to rezone former Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina Sr.’s property from a town center to an active adult community, because her title company had prior business dealings with Mountain Hill.

“We conclude that Smith had a disqualifying conflict of interest that infected not only her official actions in 2001 but also those in 2004,” the opinion stated. “As a consequence, the 2004 Master Plan and both 2004 AAC ordinances are invalid and of no effect.”

Former Middletown Township Attorney Bernard Reilly said last October, when filing the appeal with the Supreme Court, that he would have to prove that Smith did not have a conflict of interest in voting against the Town Center proposal.

The township argued that there was no conflict of interest because her business relationship with members of Mountain Hill in the past was minor and occurred many years prior.

The Supreme Court decision left in place the appellate court’s decision overruling trial court Judge Lawrence M. Lawson, who had allowed Middletown to rezone the Town Center project out of existence.

The appellate panel ruled entirely in Mountain Hill’s favor, overturning the trial court decisions, invalidating the rezoning, the Master Plan and numerous rulings by the Zoning Board.

The decisions end Middletown’s right to appeal and give a green light to Mountain Hill to proceed with its Town Center project without any further interference from the township.

The township’s December 2008 affording housing plan includes the Town Center tract and anticipates it will provide at least 400 residential apartment units of which 80 would be deemed affordable and go toward its state-mandated affordable housing obligation.

Mountain Hill and Middletown have battled in court over development of the property for more than a decade.

On Sept. 30, the Township Committee unanimously agreed to petition the New Jersey Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that the project could go forward.

The Sept. 10 decision by Appellate Division Judge C.L. Miniman invalidated the township’s 2004 master plan and directed that the 1993 master plan be the one the township would have to follow. The court said the Planning Board should have heard Mountain Hill’s January 2003 application.

The court overturned a 2006 decision by Lawson who ruled the Planning Board should follow the 2004 master plan, which changed the zoning to an active adult community and blocked the Town Center development.

On Oct. 1, 2008, the Planning Board passed a resolution reaffirming its 2004 master plan, which does not permit the proposed $150 million, 137-acre mixed-use development.

Mountain Hill, which is controlled by members of the Azzolina family, sought to overturn a zoning change adopted by the Middletown Township Committee about five years ago to stop the project from getting off the ground.

According to Fox, the Azzolina family acquired this property over a period of many years between 1954 and 1993 with the goal of building a shopping center.

Fox said the 1993 master plan supported the Town Center project while the 2004 master plan did not permit it.

On Oct 31, 2003, the Planning Board denied Mountain Hill the ability to file any more applications for the Town Center.

The revised master plan in 2004 was approved to establish a model for land use in Middletown and infuriated proponents of the town center development.

The plan, unanimously adopted by the Planning Board on Jan. 29, 2003, was a policy document “to serve as a development and conservation guide for the 24,000-some acres that comprise the township,” as described in the plan.

See story>>> Here

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Filed under Joseph Azzloina, Middletown, Mountain Hill LLC, New Jersey Supreme Court, the Independent, Town Center

>Middletown Dems, Byrnes & Short Oppose Town Center and Object to Accusation to the Contrary

>Middletown Democratic Committeemen Partick Short and Sean Byrnes rleased the following in response to a letter written Greg Vasil, President of the Concerned Citizens of Middletown:

Township Committeeman Patrick Short and I have read with dismay Mr. Vasil’s recent letter to, The Two River Times. We have no issue with his position on the Town Center project. In fact, we agree with Mr. Vasil: We don’t want the project either. We have been very clear on this with both of us voting to petition the state Supreme Court to overturn the recent Appellate Court decision that ruled in the developer’s favor. Indeed, before his election, as he did with the athletic complex in Lincroft, Mr. Short led the campaign to block the project.

Where we take issue with Mr. Vasil is when he parrots the campaign mantra of our mayor. Since last year, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, when speaking in public and when writing to newspapers, has claimed that we support the Town Center and that we are in the pocket of the developer, Joseph Azzolina. These accusations, like so many made in this year’s campaign, have no basis in fact and are part of a desperate effort to hold on to power in Middletown.

We find it quite revealing that a party that has held power for 30 years campaigns on fabricated allegations, rather than on their record of governance. Given the history of controversy involving Republican elected officials in Middletown, our mayor and his party have calculated that this year’s Republican candidates will gain votes if he casts the Democrats as favoring the Town Center. So, although we have stated openly our opposition to the project and have voted accordingly, our mayor – and now Mr. Vasil – continue to suggest otherwise.

The comments attributed to Mr. Short in the mayor’s recent introduction of an ordinance to rezone the property in question are misleading. Each of us took issue with the mayor’s decision, taken without any discussion with other committee members, to re-introduce the identical ordinance that had been struck down only weeks earlier by the Appellate Court. We did so, in part, because we feared this action would cause the court to take matters into its own hands and judicially order the approval of the Town Center project.

The Appellate Court’s recent decision severely criticizes Middletown and comes very close to ordering that the project move forward. We made a motion to table the ordinance for two weeks to allow discussion and to correct numerous errors in the ordinance that the mayor overlooked in his haste to make it a campaign issue. Even as we voted on our request for this brief period of time to discuss the ordinance, the mayor immediately alleged a connection to Mr. Azzolina. Regrettably, with nothing else to campaign on, there is little we can do to silence these baseless allegations until this election is over.

In truth, Mr. Azzolina, the developer of the Town Center project, is a long-time Republican, and the Town Center idea came from the Republican Party. He split with the current leaders of his party, who initially encouraged him to purchase the property to build Town Center. We find it somewhat amusing that our mayor, and now Mr. Vasil, would attempt to use this Republican Party spat to criticize Democrats as supporting the Town Center. We work for Middletown residents, not Mr. Azzolina. If he has expressed support for us, he has a right to do so, but any effort to characterize that support as a quid pro quo for our support of Town Center is mistaken.

Sean Byrnes and Patrick Short
Middletown Township Committee

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Filed under Greg Vasil, Joseph Azzloina, Middletown, Patrick Short, Sean F. Byrnes, Town Center, Two River Times

Middletown Dems, Byrnes & Short Oppose Town Center and Object to Accusation to the Contrary

Middletown Democratic Committeemen Partick Short and Sean Byrnes rleased the following in response to a letter written Greg Vasil, President of the Concerned Citizens of Middletown:

Township Committeeman Patrick Short and I have read with dismay Mr. Vasil’s recent letter to, The Two River Times. We have no issue with his position on the Town Center project. In fact, we agree with Mr. Vasil: We don’t want the project either. We have been very clear on this with both of us voting to petition the state Supreme Court to overturn the recent Appellate Court decision that ruled in the developer’s favor. Indeed, before his election, as he did with the athletic complex in Lincroft, Mr. Short led the campaign to block the project.

Where we take issue with Mr. Vasil is when he parrots the campaign mantra of our mayor. Since last year, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, when speaking in public and when writing to newspapers, has claimed that we support the Town Center and that we are in the pocket of the developer, Joseph Azzolina. These accusations, like so many made in this year’s campaign, have no basis in fact and are part of a desperate effort to hold on to power in Middletown.

We find it quite revealing that a party that has held power for 30 years campaigns on fabricated allegations, rather than on their record of governance. Given the history of controversy involving Republican elected officials in Middletown, our mayor and his party have calculated that this year’s Republican candidates will gain votes if he casts the Democrats as favoring the Town Center. So, although we have stated openly our opposition to the project and have voted accordingly, our mayor – and now Mr. Vasil – continue to suggest otherwise.

The comments attributed to Mr. Short in the mayor’s recent introduction of an ordinance to rezone the property in question are misleading. Each of us took issue with the mayor’s decision, taken without any discussion with other committee members, to re-introduce the identical ordinance that had been struck down only weeks earlier by the Appellate Court. We did so, in part, because we feared this action would cause the court to take matters into its own hands and judicially order the approval of the Town Center project.

The Appellate Court’s recent decision severely criticizes Middletown and comes very close to ordering that the project move forward. We made a motion to table the ordinance for two weeks to allow discussion and to correct numerous errors in the ordinance that the mayor overlooked in his haste to make it a campaign issue. Even as we voted on our request for this brief period of time to discuss the ordinance, the mayor immediately alleged a connection to Mr. Azzolina. Regrettably, with nothing else to campaign on, there is little we can do to silence these baseless allegations until this election is over.

In truth, Mr. Azzolina, the developer of the Town Center project, is a long-time Republican, and the Town Center idea came from the Republican Party. He split with the current leaders of his party, who initially encouraged him to purchase the property to build Town Center. We find it somewhat amusing that our mayor, and now Mr. Vasil, would attempt to use this Republican Party spat to criticize Democrats as supporting the Town Center. We work for Middletown residents, not Mr. Azzolina. If he has expressed support for us, he has a right to do so, but any effort to characterize that support as a quid pro quo for our support of Town Center is mistaken.

Sean Byrnes and Patrick Short
Middletown Township Committee

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Filed under Greg Vasil, Joseph Azzloina, Middletown, Patrick Short, Sean F. Byrnes, Town Center, Two River Times

Middletown Democrats Oppose Town Center

 According to Middletown Democrats for Township Committee Patricia Walsh and Jim Grenafege, they join Middletown committeemen Patrick Short and Sean Byrnes in opposition to the Town Center project in the township.

“The Town Center project was created many years ago by Anthony Mercantante, who is now the township administrator, and approved by the former all-Republican Township Committee to become a part of the old Master Plan in Middletown,” Grenafege said.

For more than a decade, Grenafege said, this project has been the centerpiece of an inter-Republican feud in Middletown not involving Democrats in any manner.

” Middletown Democrat has never backed the Town Center, approved the Town Center, allowed the Town Center or promoted the Town Center”, Walsh said. “There would not even be a Town Center project if the Middletown Republicans on the governing body did not create it.”

Consequently, Walsh and Grenafege join with Byrnes and Short about this important community concern.

“However, what has occurred has been repeated attempts by the current Middletown Committee Republican Majority to disobey New Jersey’s court system where it involves its recent ruling with regard to this project,” Walsh said.

“I am an American, who acknowledges the rights of the courts to decide legal matters in this country,” Grenafege said.”The fact of the matter is that the Middletown Committee’s Republican Majority screwed this up where it involves the creation of this project and, later, in the actions it took to eliminate this project. This majority has demonstrated yet another symptom of its inability to lead or manage.”

“What is left to do is obey the American court system. If an appeal of this decision is likely to win, then fine, but I will not pour money into an open hole where it regards this project anymore” Walsh concluded.

The candidates are calling for the appointment of a better township attorney, more capable and successful in litigation, to evaluate the matter in an expert fashion before deciding the future legal pursuit of this matter. “I have to know there is a chance that the township’s position will win in court against the project before we put more money into it,” Grenafege concluded.

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Filed under Jim Grenafege, Middletown Democrats, Middletown Township Committee, Patricia Walsh, Patrick Short, Sean F. Byrnes, Town Center

Middletown Democrats Oppose Town Center

 According to Middletown Democrats for Township Committee Patricia Walsh and Jim Grenafege, they join Middletown committeemen Patrick Short and Sean Byrnes in opposition to the Town Center project in the township.

“The Town Center project was created many years ago by Anthony Mercantante, who is now the township administrator, and approved by the former all-Republican Township Committee to become a part of the old Master Plan in Middletown,” Grenafege said.

For more than a decade, Grenafege said, this project has been the centerpiece of an inter-Republican feud in Middletown not involving Democrats in any manner.

” Middletown Democrat has never backed the Town Center, approved the Town Center, allowed the Town Center or promoted the Town Center”, Walsh said. “There would not even be a Town Center project if the Middletown Republicans on the governing body did not create it.”

Consequently, Walsh and Grenafege join with Byrnes and Short about this important community concern.

“However, what has occurred has been repeated attempts by the current Middletown Committee Republican Majority to disobey New Jersey’s court system where it involves its recent ruling with regard to this project,” Walsh said.

“I am an American, who acknowledges the rights of the courts to decide legal matters in this country,” Grenafege said.”The fact of the matter is that the Middletown Committee’s Republican Majority screwed this up where it involves the creation of this project and, later, in the actions it took to eliminate this project. This majority has demonstrated yet another symptom of its inability to lead or manage.”

“What is left to do is obey the American court system. If an appeal of this decision is likely to win, then fine, but I will not pour money into an open hole where it regards this project anymore” Walsh concluded.

The candidates are calling for the appointment of a better township attorney, more capable and successful in litigation, to evaluate the matter in an expert fashion before deciding the future legal pursuit of this matter. “I have to know there is a chance that the township’s position will win in court against the project before we put more money into it,” Grenafege concluded.

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Filed under Jim Grenafege, Middletown Democrats, Middletown Township Committee, Patricia Walsh, Patrick Short, Sean F. Byrnes, Town Center