Two award-winning buildings in Pine Brook almost didn't get built. See NorthJersey.com.
In 2001, South Salem Street Associates (SSSA) applied to the Montville Planning Board to build a 48,000 square foot, two story office building and child care center on 6.5 acres at 330 Changebridge Road. The application was fully conforming with Montville Township's Land Use ordinances.
The September 2001 contract also specified that Montville would extend the sewer line to SSSA's property - worth $200,000 - by June 1, 2002. It would not be installed until May of 2005 - a clear breach of contract.
The site plan was again fully conforming, and sought only to reduce the amount of blasting and rock excavation by half, a total of 10,000 cubic yards or 1,000 truck loads. The Planning Board's own engineer agreed that it was a better site plan. But Dan Grant introduced a resolution to illegally deny the application. And Planning Board member John Rosellini participated in the voting to deny it.
That same day Rosellini signed a lease, for his own building at 323 Changebridge Road, with Learning Experience - the very same company who had previously executed a letter of intent to lease from SSSA.
SSSA filed suit to overturn the illegal denial, and in June of 2004 Judge Theodore Bozonellis not only agreed with SSSA, he took the rare step of approving SSSA's plan in his court room and chastised Montville for failing to abide by its own regulations.
Rosellini and Grant weren't finished delaying SSSA's project. In November of 2004 Montville sued to enjoin - not appeal - Judge Bozonellis's decision. Frustrated at the years of harrassment and delay, SSSA principal Ron Soussa sent a memo to Rosellini, Grant, and the Township Committee Download Soussa 11-12-04 memo to Township Committee telling them that they would be sued for their behavior. Although Montville promptly dropped the suit, SSSA sued for damages when Rosellini orchestrated a bogus municipal court matter alleging improper clearing of trees.
And so began a 7 year lawsuit that was finally settled in March of 2011 with a $700,000 payment to SSSA. Rosellini's instructions to Township Engineer Tony Barile to find a way to falsely prosecute Soussa resulted in then-Judge (and undisclosed Rosellini attorney) Seth Davenport's perjury and fate to be determined by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.
John Rosellini was voted out of office in 2004, and later invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination to try to avoid indictment (Download Rosellini-fifth-amendment) when questioned by the Morris County Prosecutor. Rosellini was also found to have used his office for personal gain and was denied a taxpayer funded legal defense.
Dan Grant was voted out in 2005, after his family's "Harbeson-Grant" scandal became public. Grant lost several attempts to regain office since, for a record setting 11 general election losses.
Along the way both Grant and former Mayor Marie Cetrulo (also voted out) admitted to writing false information about Soussa in literature for their losing campaigns. Cetrulo paid $5,000 in damages, while Grant - who was indigent - was allowed to merely issue a retraction.
So what was gained? Rosellini and Grant were both voted out of office in disgrace. SSSA gained $1,225,000 (and a $200,000 sewer line) but lost many years of rental. A large number of lawyers gained hundreds of thousands in legal fees. And taxpayers, as usual, got stuck with the bill.
All could have been avoided if Rosellini and Grant had zoned the property differently, if they really believed the 48,000 square foot building was too big, during the many years that they were elected officials before the application was submitted to the Planning Board.
The truth was that Rosellini used his status as Mayor and Planning Board member to try to stop competition for the child care center he wanted to build, and Dan Grant would do anything to remain in Rosellini's good graces.
Cost to Taxpayers:
$1,225,000 Payments to SSSA
200,000 Cost of sewer line
1,200,000 8 years of lost taxes on 48,000 square foot building
500,000 Estimated cost of Montville's various attorneys and law firms
1,000,000 Cost of "Kramer" property - purchased by Montville when Kiddie Academy proposed to move to the site of what is now the dog park.
$4,125,000 Cost to taxpayers because John Rosellini wanted to build his own child care center and Dan Grant would do anything to keep his political ally in office.