Saddle River Council won't overturn approval of 19-acre 'boutique' horse farm – NorthJersey.com

November 8, 2019 - Comment

Marsha A. Stoltz North Jersey Record Published 4:51 PM EST Nov 7, 2019 SADDLE RIVER — The Borough Council missed a deadline to vote on a resident appeal to overturn the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s approval of a boarding horse farm in a residential zone, effectively allowing that approval to stand. Patriot Farm attorney John Lamb


SADDLE RIVER — The Borough Council missed a deadline to vote on a resident appeal to overturn the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s approval of a boarding horse farm in a residential zone, effectively allowing that approval to stand.

Patriot Farm attorney John Lamb said the Council’s “failure to take action” by Nov. 4 on an appeal by 34 residents “affirms the Zoning Board of Adjustment decision under the Municipal Land Use Laws,” and that objectors now have 45 days to file an appeal with Bergen County Superior Court.

Borough Attorney Russell Huntington said he has not been instructed to issue a statement on why Borough Council failed to vote on the appeal. However, in an Oct. 31 letter to Huntington, Lamb said that the parties asserted in court on Oct. 29 “that there is not a sufficient number of unconflicted members of the Borough Council to act on the appeal.”

Further complicating matters, according to Lamb, is the 34 opposing residents have assigned their claims to a “new appellant” — Saddle River Neighbors Inc. — under attorney Gerald Salerno so they will be “shielded from liability.”  Salerno has declined comment.

Lamb is seeking to have the appeal dismissed “with prejudice — and costs — as a result of the assignment of the appeal and the lack of standing of the new objector.”

Resident Timothy Egan, who filed the appeal on behalf of the 34 residents, did not return calls for comment.

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It is the latest in a series of developments following the May approval by the Zoning Board of Adjustment of Patriot Farm’s proposal to construct a 12-horse boarding barn and adjacent riding arena on its 19-acre property at the western end of River Farm Road. An application to build a 7,000-square-foot home on the property was previously approved.

The hearings were sparsely attended and few objections raised on the proposal in spite of six variances: commercial boarding of horses in a residential zone, residential apartments in the barn for two grooms, barn as a second  principal structure, barn cupola dimensions, accessory buildings in the front yard of the adjoining house, and 11 garage doors where six are permitted.

It was only after the application was approved that residents descended on the Council in force to object to its approval. A group of 34 residents submitted an appeal on June 25.

Over the summer, Lamb challenged the eligibility of two council members to vote on the appeal. In his Sept. 11 complaint, Lamb charged Council President Eric Jensen and Councilman Paul Schulstad with conflicts of interest for orchestrating a takeover of the committee appointment jurisdiction from Mayor Albert Kurpis during their January reorganization meeting. The complaint contends this allowed the Council to “pack” the zoning board with four new members considered unfavorable to the application.

Jensen and Schulstad have denied manipulating the zoning board members, saying the appointments were intended to avoid “affiliation with any political faction in town.”  In any event, the application’s bulk variances were approved unanimously, with only James Kerner dissenting on the use variances.

However, Schulstad and Councilman Rosario Ruffino eventually recused themselves from voting, and hearings were scheduled to determine Jensen’s eligibility.

Marsha Stoltz is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: stoltz@northjersey.com Twitter: @marsha_stoltz

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