Following an executive session held after the regular meeting of the Westfield Town Council Tuesday evening, Mayor Andy Skibitsky and Council members reconvened to announce a settlement had been reached in the lawsuit brought by Sunnyside Senior Housing Corporation against the Town of Westfield regarding compliance with the state's Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) rules.
Councilman James Foerst read from the resolution which authorized the mayor to execute a settlement agreement with regards to the litigation entitled Sunnyside Senior Housing vs. Town of Westfield et al.
"Since 2006 or '07, we had been working to comply with the state of New Jersey's requirements with regards to our COAH obligations," Foerst said. "We felt that we always had complied with those rules but nevertheless we submitted a plan in 2008. In 2009, a lawsuit was brought by a developer claiming that the Town of Westfield improperly was denying the ability of certain persons to live within our town and those deemed to be viewed affordable housing by COAH. That lawsuit has today been settled.
"The 2008 plan that we had submitted had various pieces of it. That plan was submitted to COAH and that plan we are now going to be requesting that the court affirm, with only one slight difference and that would be the addition of four additional affordable units at a property located on Springfield Avenue, the subject of this litigation."
Foerst said he supported the resolution because he felt it was "an equitable result."
"Unfortunately, a developer felt the need to file a lawsuit but at the end of the day I feel that the result for the Town of Westfield is in the best interest for the Town of Westfield and for those neighbors in that area," he said.
Councilman David Haas said he agreed with Foerst, when, during the executive session, he thanked former attorney Bob Cockren, town engineer, zoning and planning officials "in getting to this point" and "for incredible amount of work they put in."
According to an article in the April 11, 2011 issue of The Westfield Leader, as of September 2010 the Town had spent $21,000 for the year on general litigation expenses for Cockren, which included defense of the Sunnyside lawsuit. In 2009 the Town paid $148,000 in legal fees to Cockren and his firm, which also included defense of Sunnyside.
Patch contacted the Town Administrator's office Wednesday morning to request the total amount spent on legal fees but was told Administrator Jim Gildea is out of the office today. Patch will update this story with those figures when they are made available.