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East Gate Owners Sue Township Over Liquor Restriction

They don't think the Moorestown Mall should have the sole right to sell alcohol.

The owners of East Gate Square Shopping Center have sued the township, alleging its restriction of alcohol sales to the Moorestown Mall is a violation of state law.

East Gate filed the lawsuit last week, five months after voters, by a roughly 2-to-1 margin, , and at the same time voted to restrict those sales to the Moorestown Mall.

The second referendum question—written by mall owner PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust)—approved by voters restricts the issuance of liquor licenses to full-service restaurants “located on the same tax lot as an indoor shopping mall in the SRC zoning district.” East Gate is also located in the SRC zone, right across the street from the mall, but lacking an indoor shopping mall, is precluded from bidding on licenses.

Township council adopted on second reading last week an ordinance making the restriction official, thus prompting East Gate’s lawsuit.

A statement released by Archer & Greiner, the firm representing East Gate, argues the ordinance is an example of “zoning by referendum,” which is not allowed by law, and “unfairly favors the mall property.”

“Limiting the privilege of serving alcohol to the mall property constitutes illegal ‘spot zoning’ and  violates both the New Jersey and United States Constitutions,” the statement reads, “which prohibit unequal treatment between similar persons and properties.”

Township attorney Thomas Coleman has asserted all along the township’s solid legal standing in the matter and did not waver when reached for comment Wednesday.

He said in the lead-up to the referendum vote, the township did its own independent analysis to make sure the second question was legit—reviewing case law and , as well as other municipalities regarding their liquor license policies.

Coleman criticized East Gate for its 11th hour lawsuit, calling it an “unbelievable waste of taxpayer money.”

“First and foremost, I echo not only the mayor and the rest of council, but also the will of the voters … We are extremely disappointed at the legal maneuverings being undertaken by East Gate,” Coleman said. “Where were they on Nov. 9, Dec. 9, Jan. 9? … It’s ridiculous; they’re out of time.”

He said East Gate first contacted the township in January .

Coleman said ultimately East Gate should be held responsible for whatever expense the township incurs to fight the suit.

However, local attorney Bill Cox, , believes East Gate has a much stronger case than even he had.

“I would be surprised, frankly, if they don’t prevail,” said Cox, a commercial litigation attorney. “It’s a pretty straightforward legal issue.”

Cox claimed he thought PREIT’s question looked like spot zoning all along, but didn’t raise it as an issue in his suit because he was trying to keep alcohol off the ballot altogether.

Should the court rule in East Gate’s favor, Cox suggested it could open the door for the establishment of alcohol-serving restaurants in other parts of town, like the Kmart shopping center (across the street from the mall) or the , both of which are in SRC zones.

Coleman said PREIT, though not named in East Gate’s suit, has asserted itself in the case as a defendant.

All the parties have already had preliminary discussions with the judge in the case, with another scheduled for Friday, according to Coleman, with the intent of expediting the matter.

Ed Nice April 26, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Hey Pete. Where have you been?? I was wondering when we could discuss the town hall rent. Where are the numbers??
SteveS April 26, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Hey Ed, I did vote to give Al Dente a variance for outdoor dining. I'm in favor of helping business be successful in our town as long as it is legal. Al Dente IMO met both sets of criteria for the standards which we are charged to determine whether a variance should be granted. Are you saying you are against helping businesses in our town succeed and thrive? And Leaky is right Mr. Locatell did indeed excuse himself from the room when Al Dente presented it's case, shows a little integrity don't you think?
Ed Nice April 26, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Hey Steve where did I say I didnt support new businesses??? I support all Moorestown not just some Moorestown. I voted YES for liquor in 07 and last year. My point is the zoning board is made up of all you diehardreps and party bosses. Arent you campaign manager for the new Reps who want to raise taxes for town hall??? since you brought it up, what is locatells relationship with al dente and why is he part of the noliquorlicenses.com group??? Moorestown voters want to know!!!
John April 26, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Any one with a pulse could see this coming. If those behind the ballot initiatives really did not want alcohol sales outside of the Mall, they would have combined the two referendums into one with no severability. That means if the mall zoning issue was successfully challenged, the lifting of the ban portion would be thrown out as well. Someone needs to look into the township's legal costs from all these lawsuits and whether attorneys representing the township are lining their pockets with our tax money.
SteveS April 26, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Ed, I can't speak for Mr. Locatell and his business relationships. I am indeed treasurer of the Garwood, Napolitano, Palko 2012 campaign. I am counting on your support Ed, here is the address PO Box 98, Moorestown, NJ. Or you can go to the website gnp2012.com and sign up to be a volunteer, I would love to have you on our team. As far as raising taxes that is not on our platform, I believe the goal is to try and responsibly lower taxes so that all people in town have affordable property taxes. Isn't that a noble goal?
Eva Burgess April 26, 2012 at 02:34 PM
That is the problem including our Federal government. The attorneys get richer richer and we get poorer...Look when they represent the everyday people. They get the monies not the victimns. We have a President of the United States who wrongfully makes "laws" and appoints czars and has communists in his Cabinet..........
Ed Nice April 26, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Steve hear this and hear it good, I am not a Rep, I am not a Dem, I am a Moorstonian that bleeds Black and Gold. You are asking me to be of a part of the Rep machine, being the MRMC, which has under minded Moorestown with their political games. Don't keep looking to the mail to see if my donation comes, cause it isn't going to happen. When I vote I will vote on the individuals be them Dem or Rep that I feel will represent the majority will of the town. By the way you say their platform is to lower taxes, HOW STEVE, how are you going to do that and build town hall and the library. These are the reasons that BGT are being thrown under the bridge. HOW are you guys going to make it happen Steve? It isn't with out a tax hike!!! Are you guys going to get ride of all trash pick up or are you guys going to get ride of a 1/3 of our police force to make it happen? What streets aren't going to get fixed to get the town hall/library done Steve? It's NOT GOING to happen with out a raise to our taxes! BGT were willing to try and get it done. Things with the bids went wrong. Thank god they did because life is a lot tougher today than it was 4 years ago when this thing went to bid.
SteveS April 26, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Ed, Just because you're undeclared doesn't mean you can't support our team. We have a big tent and all are welcome to help our cause. It would be my pleasure to introduce you to them if you're at Monday's meeting. Please seek me out since I'm not sure who you are. I think you will find a lot in common with all three. You will also find they are not part of any machine just three people who want to volunteer their time to help make Moorestown a more affordable place to live. How is that a bad thing?
Ed Nice April 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Steve its not a bad thing but they are just fancy words with no substance because neither you or they will answer the real questions. Lets try again. will they tell the public how they will fix the town hall Monday since they obviously think the 5 current members cant? how they will lower taxes and build town hall/library? You cant say you will lower taxes if you cant tell us how. Everyone wants town to be affordable. I do. My parents do. My friends do. HOW??? What layoffs are you gonna do?? If you keep ducking the questions, voters will already know they cannot be trusted more than we already think. HOW WILL THEY LOWER TAXES AND BUILD TOWN HALL??? Come on Rob Scott, do some reporting and ask the hard questions for the public since regular taxpayers/voters cannot get a straight answer.
SteveS April 26, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Ed, I know you're a good guy. I'm sure any of the three would be happy to discuss these issues with you. You're asking all the right questions. Send me an email off line at gnp2012.com and I'll put you on the email list for our updates which will be addressing some of your issues.
Ed Nice April 26, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Wow Steve did you just refuse to answer the publics questions on a public forum?? Why are you afraid to post the answers?? Typical politicians!!!! Hey Rob, maybe I should be the editor??? LOL!!!
Tom April 26, 2012 at 04:37 PM
I am not sure why anyone cares if the East Gate location at the Mall is able to serve alcohol. I am equally surprised to read that those seeking public office will not answer the public's questions in public. It defeats the whole purpose of representing the people if you are unwilling to tell the people how you plan to accomplish things.
SteveS April 26, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Ed, Last one for the day. I can't answer your questions because I don't speak for Garwood, Napolitano or Palko. Go to www.gnp2012.com and send them an email. I can tell you all three are good solid citizens who are devoting a heck of a lot of time in trying to make this town a more affordable place to raise a family. Please introduce yourself to me on Monday, I'd like to meet you.
arturo hahn April 26, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Ahem - did anyone else out there raise an eyebrow over Archer & Greiner representing East Gate? Don't they do a free legal advice column for this website? I believe one of their attorneys also lives in Moorestown - his face is in the Moorestown Sun every time the wind blows too hard. Stamp that cheesey...
KJL April 26, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Hey Ed, at least when he refused to answer your question knowing the honest answer would cause controversy he didn't simply say "it's your turn to talk Ed"!!!!
No New Taxes 2012 April 26, 2012 at 05:29 PM
More like greed. And supposed political power. And PREIT & Moorestown Town Council - Mr. Rateable. Remember him. Now, we are all laughing.... losers.
JP Morgan Chase April 26, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I was wondering, most people have their mortgage company pay their property taxes for them. A person essentially stops paying property taxes if they stop paying their mortgage and go into foreclosure. How are the foreclosures in town effecting the property taxes for those of us that pay our mortgages? Just wondering?
No New Taxes 2012 April 26, 2012 at 05:30 PM
More like greed. And supposed political power. And PREIT & Moorestown Town Council - Mr. Rateable. Remember him. Now, we are all laughing.... losers.
KJL April 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Hey Ed, at least when he refused to answer your question knowing the honest answer would cause controversy he didn't simply say "it's your turn to talk Ed"!!!!!
No New Taxes 2012 April 26, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I am surprises Scott Boyer wasn't hired? Closed his office after the YES vote... what happend there. WIn - Lose?
Ed Nice April 26, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Ok Ok Steve, you cant speak for them yet you are their campaign manager!! And you cant speak for the mrmc although you are one of the people who voted to kick JB out. Thanks for the additional fluff for a response. Im sure they are nice people same as all 5 members and all 5 before and before them. That we can agree on but what i and everyone else wants to know is HOW WILL THEY CUT TAXES AND BUILD TOWN HALL??? You know why they wont answer is because the answer is YOU CANT!!!! Its real simple Steve, have them speak for themselves right here on the good ol patch blog so all of the public can see. Its easy, you signup as GNP screen name and you answer our questions. HInes and his team can do the same if they are not also afraid. Otherwise, they are just hack politicians hiding behind you. One more time.....HOW WILL YOU LOWER TAXES AND BUILD TOWN HALL????
Lee April 26, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Maybe the candidates could do a call in like the guy from PREIT?
Air jay April 26, 2012 at 08:31 PM
When will the republican candidates be in public next? This weekend? What's minday night?
Dudley Foramen April 26, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Anyone with half a brain knew that the restriction would not stand up in court. The pro liquor people got their way, now let's just live with it.
Air jay April 27, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Really taxes the courts can overturn a referendum? The only place we've seen that was in California? So of east gate wins, how does moorestown stay dry?
No New Taxes 2012 April 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
The booze vote had a very specific venue to operate. If that is declared illegal, then no booze will be allowed since voters only approved that. The boozers will have to start over again, or another lawsuit will follow. Right Rob?
Ed Nice May 01, 2012 at 07:40 AM
Well Gee I guess we know who you are now! I expect a call tomorrow! If not you may not like the out come !!!! I think it will blow up the party you are supposed to represent! By the way composure! Not!
Mint juleps May 05, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Ahh, whew that was great! "I'LL HAVE ANOTHER". Got a little distracted watching them horses. Mr taxes, do you think this booze vote really can be thrown out by a judge ? Could you pick me more mint leaves?
Mall Fan May 19, 2012 at 12:25 PM
With this new development, and as bill says east gate wins the suit, what happens with question #2? is it thrown out? If not, what happens with the "enclosed shopping" element in the question? If that language stays then it could only say at the mall anyhow right?
George May 20, 2012 at 01:49 AM
das how dem lawyers get rich wit my tx monie

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