Marlboro builders get court go-ahead
FREEHOLD A state Superior Court judge Thursday ordered Marlboro Mayor Robert Kleinberg to sign paperwork needed to start construction on a senior citizen housing project by developers Steve and Bernard Meiterman, despite continued arguments from Marlboro officials that the brothers will soon be indicted for corrupt practices. The Meitermans' office in Freehold was raided by FBI and IRS agents in March. Bayer said that in the last month alone, the FBI has requested specific documents relating to Meiterman developments "no less than seven times," and that FBI agents were in Town Hall Thursday going through records pertaining to the Meitermans.
Marlboro builders get court go-ahead
BY JAMES A. QUIRK
FREEHOLD A state Superior Court judge Thursday ordered Marlboro Mayor Robert Kleinberg to sign paperwork needed to start construction on a senior citizen housing project by developers Steve and Bernard Meiterman, despite continued arguments from Marlboro officials that the brothers will soon be indicted for corrupt practices.
The Meitermans plan to build Brownstone Commons, later renamed the Grande at Marlboro. Steven Meiterman, an attorney, acted as the official applicant for the project, a 94,000-square-foot, two-story, age-restricted rental complex on 7.5 acres off Route 9 North at Clayton Road that will consist of 26 one-bedroom units and 64 two-bedroom units.
Kleinberg's refusal to sign off on the builder's agreement, a duty that is ordinarily automatic, has delayed construction. Without a signed builder's agreement, the township cannot issue building permits.
Township Attorney Andrew Bayer Thursday stuck to the rationale he has presented previously during similar hearings at which Marlboro has tried to put the brakes on developments controlled by builders being investigated by the FBI.
The Meitermans' office in Freehold was raided by FBI and IRS agents in March. Bayer said that in the last month alone, the FBI has requested specific documents relating to Meiterman developments "no less than seven times," and that FBI agents were in Town Hall Thursday going through records pertaining to the Meitermans.
Further, Bayer and Kleinberg contend that the Meitermans are the unnamed Developer #1 and #2 in the indictment released Nov. 21 against Frank G. Abate, former executive director of the Western Monmouth Utilities Authority.
In the indictment, between 2002 and 2005, Developer #1 and #2 submitted several applications to the WMUA concerning sewer extensions for their development projects. When they learned that Abate wanted to put an addition onto his Marlboro home, the pair contacted an architect who worked on several of their developments, according to the indictment. This architect drafted the plans for Abate's addition, and the developers footed the bill.
There was little dispute from either side that the Meiterman brothers will be the next figures to be indicted in the FBI's investigation into municipal corruption in Marlboro. Bayer repeatedly asked Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson to put off forcing Kleinberg to sign the builder's agreement for at least two weeks, as both Bayer and Kleinberg said they expect an indictment will be handed up within that time.
Steven Tripp, attorney for the Meitermans, argued that such a delay would only be based on "arbitrary and capricious" speculation, and that any charges that occur "may not involve this development or Marlboro Township, but only the Western Monmouth Utilities Authority."
Tripp also said that Kleinberg had clearly overstepped the limits of his authority by not signing the builder's agreement on an approved development.
"I think the law is clear that this is a ministerial act, not a discretionary act," Tripp said. "The mayor doesn't have the authority to decide not to sign because he thinks criminal conduct has occurred. . . . He doesn't have the power the become judge, jury and executioner in one fell swoop."
Lawson sidestepped many of the points argued by Bayer and agreed with Tripp that Kleinberg had no legal ground on which to refuse to sign.
The judge also refused to assume that the Meitermans are the developers named in the Abate indictment, saying that to do so would be improper speculation. Lawson made it very clear that he is aware of the ongoing investigation in Marlboro, but said he has received no specific communication from FBI officials or U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie pertaining to the Meitermans or the Grande.
"I know the FBI and Mr. Christie's office is there (in Marlboro), but I don't know when there's going to be an indictment," Lawson said.
The judge added that if the Meitermans are indicted for actions that involve the Grande, the court will halt construction of that project.
Steven Meiterman declined to comment after Lawson read his decision.
Town sues zoning board
The Marlboro Zoning Board of Adjustment granted approval for the Grande project in August. In doing so, the board granted Meiterman a variance allowing him to build the residential units in a C-3 commercial zone where only retail uses had been permitted.
In an unusual move in October, Kleinberg and the Township Council sued the zoning board, contending that the approval constituted a zone change that was beyond its jurisdiction. The suit was dismissed in February by Superior Court Judge Alexander Lehrer, who ruled that Marlboro filed its lawsuit outside of the 45-day period allowed for appeals of zoning board decisions. The township is appealing that dismissal.