By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
While Asbury Park officials and the proposed developer of the Holy Spirit property were due back in court last week to approve the developer’s six-lot subdivision, those negotiations are on hold after Thomas De Seno brought a series of motions to challenge the church’s sale to the developer.
The case is scheduled to be heard in Freehold March 17.
De Seno is seeking a temporary restraining order to delay any development at the property on Second Avenue. He named the diocese of Trenton, the diocese, the local pastor of Mother of Mercy – which is the consolidated parish necessitated by the closure of Holy Spirit – and Bishop David O’ Connell all of various misdeeds that damaged the longevity of Holy Spirit.
The history of the demolition of the church began several years ago when the diocese announced it was closing the church because of declining attendance and the increasing expense of maintaining the site. The purchase price was to go to repair and maintenance at the former Our Lady of Mount Carmel church and parochial school.The diocese desanctified the church and listed the Second Avenue site for $2.75 milli0on property but ultimately sold it for much less because of damages to the church incurred by workers sent from St. Dominic’s in Brick which received numerous artifacts. .
This week, De Seno asked Monmouth County Assignment Court Judge Lisa P. Thorton to disqualify the law firm represented by the city because of a potential conflict with the developer. De Seno says the law firm of Cleary, Giacobbe, Alfieri and Jacobs should be disqualified because it had represented Joseph Hanna of JLD Investments, who is a developer of the site.
“The most salient fact to keep in mind in the case at bar is that the Cleary firm’s prior representation was not of JDL Investors Group, LLC, which itself has limited or no interest in the other personal holdings of Joseph Hanna,” according to De Seno’s certification. “Rather, it is Cleary’s representation of Joseph Hanna individually that gives rise to the conflict because Cleary can never harm any of Hanna’s interests, and his interests substantially include the business success of Plaintiff JLD. The Cleary firm, by representing Asbury Park, is called upon to oppose that interest in this very case.”
Mayor John B. Moor declined comment but noted that the law firm was appointed by the Joint Insurance Firm of which the city is a participant.
The six-lot subdivision initially rejected by the city put a lot of power into the hands of the developer because the plan was a conforming one based on the requirements of the city’s zoning code. Lawyers advising the city thought the city had no grounds to prevail at trial.
But De Seno disagrees.
“I think we have a very strong case,” said De Seno opposing the city’s rejection of the plan as ” legally “indefensible.”
Moor has been cast the villain by those who support the developer and recently said a few words in defense of the city’s position even though people involved in lawsuits do not typically make public statements outside the courtroom. He said he expected to be “scolded’ for his statements.
“We did not apply to knock down the church,” Moor said.
De Seno is proceeding as well against the diocese although a diocese spokeswoman said the diocese stepped away from the negotiations.