NJ Appellate Division Affirms London Fischer Trial Victory in Land-Use Dispute

October 24, 2023

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey—Oct. 24, 2023—Developers of a mixed-use redevelopment project in the Powerhouse Arts District have won their three-year legal battle over view rights with a neighboring residential tower as a result of a recent New Jersey Appellate Court ruling.

The project had been mired in litigation since October 2020 when residents of a neighboring apartment building filed a lawsuit seeking to block construction after the Jersey City Planning Board granted a height variance adding a 12th floor and an additional nine feet to the structure.

The suit claimed that the redevelopment plan originally approved for the 10,000-square-foot site, which had been vacant since 2016, limited any new construction to be “no greater than 11 stories and 115 feet.” However, the completed project, which tops out at 12 stories and 125 feet, “will block the views from the rooftop amenities” on its neighboring building, the suit asserted.

Upholding a July 2021 New Jersey Superior Court Decision, The Appellate Division ruled Aug. 4 that the Planning Board did not abuse its discretion by granting the nine-foot height variance “based on its consideration of the architectural and engineering site plans, expert witness testimony, and comparative studies of the effects of the variance on neighboring properties.” Citing prior case law, the Appellate Division also noted that “a property owner has no right to an unobstructed view across a neighbor’s property.”

The Planning Board had found the requested height deviation was necessary to meet changes in building codes that occurred since the original plan was submitted. These changes included, among other things: higher lobby ceiling heights for flood mitigation as required by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection; larger package rooms and bicycle storage prompted by the COVID pandemic; and a larger transformer room, per the city’s updated construction code.

While acknowledging that some views from the neighboring building’s rooftop deck would be partially blocked, the Planning Board concluded that the benefits of the project to the broader community outweighed this detriment by eliminating the “eyesore” of a vacant lot.

Alessandro Bonati, founder and CEO of EPIRE, the management and development company heading up the project, said he was impressed by the way London Fischer attorneys skillfully navigated the judiciary system to win the case. Partner Bud London tried the case in Superior Court, while Partner Anna Drynda handled the appeal.

“I was honestly surprised by the specific expertise that was required—knowledge of land use, zoning laws, architecture, planning board approvals. This is a niche business,” he said. “Anna took the lead, diving in, and really immersing herself in the specifics of the case.”

For more information about this case, contact: Anna Drynda at adrynda@londonfischer.com or Bud London at blondon@londonfischer.com