By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – The developers of the old Capt. Andy’s Marina site on Amherst Avenue have prevailed in an Superior Court Appellate Division challenge brought by a neighboring restaurant.
After hearing from litigants during a Sept. 15 conference call, a New Jersey Appellate Court Oct. 7 upheld Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez’s August 2019 ruling that affirmed the Margate Planning Board’s decision to grant all the necessary variances and waivers needed to develop the property into a multi-use commercial property.
Appellate Court Judges Katie A. Gummer and Clarkson S. Fisher Jr. affirmed Mendez’s ruling that the Margate Planning Board acted appropriately when it granted preliminary and final site plan approval for Sean and Jamie Gormley of Harbour Bay, LLC to develop the long-abandoned marina site, which included a waiver of a traffic study. They also ruled that the City of Margate acted appropriately when it changed the zoning boundaries of the Marina Special District and passed an ordinance eliminating the need for on-site parking in the district.
Two Daughters, LLC, which owns Sophia’s Restaurant across the street from the marina site, filed suit against the developers, the city and the planning board, and later appealed Mendez’s ruling, stating the actions taken were arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.
The appeal decision opens the way for the Gormleys to construct a mixed-use building in the same footprint as Capt. Andy’s, along with a 2,600 square foot addition that includes a marina, fueling station, insurance office, bait shop and 149-seat restaurant. The developers have already replaced the bulkhead that spans the width of the property and will incorporate into the project the city’s plans to build a promenade overlooking the waterfront.
In his Superior Court decision, Mendez said Two Daughters failed to establish the Planning Board’s decision was inappropriate, and that it failed to challenge an ordinance eliminating the need for on-site parking for developments in the marina district within the 45-day time limit required by law.
The Appellate Court decision found no cause to disturb Mendez’s findings, “which were well supported by the record.”
“We reject the plaintiff’s contention that the Board made inadequate findings to support its conclusions. To the contrary, after considering the unopposed expert testimony and other evidence presented during its hearing on Harbour Bay’s application, the board issued a detailed resolution spelling out the reasons for its approval of the application, including the request for variances on setbacks, fencing, signage and parking. We agree with Judge Mendez’s conclusion that the Board appropriately contemplated the impact the project would have on the neighboring properties and the zone,” the ruling states.
The decision further states that issuing a waiver for a traffic study was within the Board’s discretion.
Two Daughters was represented by Anthony Monzo of Monzo Catanese Hillegass PC of Cape May Court House, who was unavailable for comment to determine if they will further appeal the case.
“We’ll have to see if Amy Coney Barrett will hear it,” Sean Gormley quipped.
The Gormleys still have other challenges to overcome before they can start their year-long building project.
Sean Gormley said he is waiting for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to reaffirm the previously approved permit granted several years ago that was remanded until the Appellate case was resolved.
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