Court decision on Eagle Ridge favors Hovnanian

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    New Jersey's Superior Court ruled last week that West Milford council must commence action on the developer's agreement with house builder K. Hovnanian for the proposed Eagle Ridge development. Judge Thomas Brogan found in favor of Hovnanian's motion requesting the council return to negotiations on the developer's agreement and take another step toward the fruition of the house builder's proposed 280 new homes in the town. The council had been reluctant to enter into negotiations with Hovnanian and had decided to stall on the agreement in part to reinforce its opposition to the plans. The council is now obligated to, at the very least, consider the agreement between themselves and Hovnanian although as Council member Joseph Elcavage believes there is no stipulation in the Superior Court's judgment forcing the township to endorse the contract. Elcavage said "The motion states we have to consider the agreement within 30 days, it doesn't say we have to sign it." Brogan's judgment does say however that if negotiations between the builder and the township have not begun by April 7 then Hovnanian will not need an agreement if work does commence. Elcavage was reluctant to ponder the immediate future for the council and its opposition to the Eagle Ridge development in view of the legal proceedings. Township Attorney William DeMarco however was more bullish in a statement to North Jersey Media aimed at Hovnanian and their house construction plans. DeMarco said "They're a long way from building." A developer's agreement is the contract a builder and a municipality co-sign to ensure work required to roads, drainage and surrounding property be carried out by the builder satisfactorily and any insurance liability be covered in the event of damage or injury. Opposition to the development by the council centers on its belief that there is insufficient underground water supply to meet the demand of the new homes and the existing residences in the area. The council quotes several studies done by independent hydrologists supporting their concerns. The agreement is one of the few remaining obstacles for Hovnanian in their plan to build the homes however the key decision is expected to come from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) by the end of the month. Commissioner Bradley Campbell of the DEP is considering Hovnanian's application to drill three new wells for the Eagle Ridge development which are vital if the builder's plans are to proceed. There has been much campaigning by council members, environmental activists and town residents heaped on Campbell and his department in an attempt to influence his decision. Campbell has said previously that politics won't play a part in his decision but solely the merits of the application. New Jersey Senator Bob Martin spoke at a rally on Jan. 29 held to voice opposition to Eagle Ridge recommending the council urge the state to purchase the land through the Green Acres program as the best option to prevent the development. This week, however, Martin expressed little confidence that anything other than the DEP's rejection of the well permit application will prevent the new homes from being built. Martin said "It is my feeling that if the water allocation is approved by the Department of Environmental Protection, development will move forward."