A group of Mahwah residents that sued the township two years ago in an effort to stop the construction of a lifestyle shopping center on Route 17 says it plans to appeal a recent judge’s decision allowing for the development.
In August, Bergen County Superior Court Judge Alexander Carver ruled that the ordinances allowing for the 600,000 square foot Crossroads development were valid when the township council passed them in 2011.
Members of the “Stop Mahwah Mall” resident group that sued the township claiming that conflicts of interest invalidated the ordinances said Thursday that they plan to appeal Carver’s decision in the case.
“From the first, we've believed in our suit and believed that Mahwah is infinitely better off without a mall that would place big box stores, a 10-plex theater and much more at the area's biggest traffic bottleneck,” the group posted on its website.
“We've heard from many of you with enough in contributions to convince us to proceed.”
“The appeal is being filed as of [Friday] morning,” Michael Kates, the Stop Mall group’s attorney, said Thursday.
According to Kates, the group alleged in its lawsuit that the ordinances were invalid because former town council president John DaPuzzo voted to introduce it. Kates argued that a clause requiring a rec field at the Crossroads site should have caused DaPuzzo to recuse himself from the vote. DaPuzzo’s wife, Dawn, is the township’s part-time Recreation Director.
The suit also argued that DaPuzzo’s judgment was “clouded” by large monetary donations the Crossroads Developers made to the Mahwah Schools Foundation, an organization he helped found.
Carver’s recent decision against the anti-mall group, “only addressed the spousal conflict. It ignores the charitable component completely,” Kates said.
“The decision also did not address the appearance of impropriety, which is not a real conflict but enough of an appearance of conflict that it would cause a public official to recuse himself,” he said.
The group is using its website and email distribution list to raise money to fund the appeal.
“We’ve gotten quite a good response from people in the community who think we should appeal this decision, and they’ve backed that up with contributions,” resident Joey Bourgholtzer, one of the group’s leaders, said.
“We are going to see this through until the end."
Calls to attorneys representing the township and the Crossroads developer were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.