Developer, Property Owner Clash Over New Apartments

By on June 29, 2016

Workers are being prevented from finishing the western side of the Verona Place apartment building.

Workers are being prevented from finishing the western side of the Verona Place apartment building.

If you’ve driven east on Bloomfield Avenue recently, you may have wondered why the apartments going up by Verona Park have Tyvek on all sides but one. The simple answer is that the owner of the insurance business next to the apartments won’t let the developer’s construction crew on his driveway to install it. After that, it gets complicated.

Last September, Mark De Mattheis, a 1983 graduate of Verona High School who has made a career in commercial and residential real estate development, broke ground on two small apartment buildings on the former Brunner Auto property. The Verona Board of Adjustment had approved the project in January 2014 after hearing favorable feedback from neighboring residents. Construction seemed to be moving along at a good clip, but behind the scenes there was trouble.

According to an affidavit filed by De Mattheis with the township on June 10, Greg Paglianite, the owner of the neighboring building at 457 Bloomfield Avenue, had repeatedly refused to sign the agreement needed to allow De Mattheis’ crew to work on the west side of the apartments. De Mattheis had sent the draft license agreement to Paglianite, who operates a State Farm office from the ground floor of his building, on October 8, 2015. These kind of agreements are routine in real estate developments in urban areas, where tight quarters often mean that construction on one property requires a scaffolding on another.

De Mattheis' construction crews arrived Tuesday morning to find access blocked by traffic cones and a pickup truck.

De Mattheis’ construction crews arrived Tuesday morning to find access blocked by traffic cones and a pickup truck.


But when this spring rolled around, Paglianite still hadn’t signed. On April 1, 2016, De Mattheis spoke to the insurance agent by phone again, who, according to the affidavit, had several demands, including the payment of $1,000 per day for every day the developer needed access to the driveway. De Mattheis estimates in the affidavit that he would need at least 30 days’ access.(MyVeronaNJ.com obtained the affidavit through an Open Pubic Records Act request.)

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“Neighbor [Paglianite] subsequently reduced this outrageous figure to $15,000,” the affidavit notes, “which is equally unjustified in view of the Entity [De Mattheis] mitigating any inconvenience to Neighbor by leasing the Lease Property [the former Lisboa BBQ lot], closer to the Neighbor’s front door than his own existing parking lot.”

De Mattheis met with Paglianite on May 23 and reached a verbal agreement to pay $10,000 for access, provided that Paglianite sign the access agreement by the end of that week. He didn’t. De Mattheis complied with two more weeks of paperwork demands from Paglianite, and still didn’t get an agreement. With the bricks for the facade about to be delivered, De Mattheis sent the town the affidavit to get a “certificate of necessity”, a declaration that would compel Paglianite to open his driveway to the construction workers. It was granted and on Tuesday, June 28, De Mattheis’ crews were supposed to finally get access to the facade.

They arrived that morning to find safety cones and a pickup truck blocking their way. The Verona Police Department and Construction Official Tom Jacobsen were called to the scene. Paglianite wouldn’t budge and Jacobsen left to file a summons. If upheld in court next week, Paglianite could face a fine of up to $1,000 a day, plus jail time.

Verona construction official Tom Jacobsen (in red shirt) speaking with Greg Paglianite, who owns 457 Bloomfield Avenue.

Verona construction official Tom Jacobsen (in red shirt) speaking with Greg Paglianite, who owns 457 Bloomfield Avenue.


Reached by phone on Tuesday, Paglianite initially said he was motivated by safety concerns, which he said had shared with the town. “They are doing this illegally,” he said of the town’s issuance of the certificate of necessity. “They are trying to bully me.” He then said that he was losing walk-in traffic to his insurance business because the sidewalk in front is closed. In fact the sidewalk is open from Verona Park to the front of his business. There is a sign at Park Avenue directing any pedestrians who might walk the south side to the opposite side of the street but the sidewalk is open to the edge of the construction site.

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Paglianite said he was unable to participate in the Board of Adjustment and Town Council meetings on the project–where he could have voice concerns that might have altered the project–because he had an ill employee and ill parents. He emailed this reporter a letter sent by his lawyer to the town on May 6, asserting that construction permit protocol was being “disregarded”. He emailed again Tuesday evening to add that he had blocked the driveway that morning because a contractor was coming that morning to install a drop ceiling in his tenant’s space and he was “setting up for them”.

Asked if any other residents or businesses had complained about the Verona Place construction, Township Manager Matthew Cavallo said “not that I’m aware of”. Mark De Mattheis did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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18 Comments

  1. April Paglianite

    June 30, 2016 at 10:03 am

    I’m shocked by the lack of professionalism and down right violation of the ethical principals that real journalists use. Mr. Demattheis didn’t send a letter in October of 2015. This letter was drafted by Mr. Paglianite’s attorney in the first week of April after one of the tenants dance patrons tripped and fell in a hole and netting left by the builder on his property.
    Mr. DeMatthiss was granted over 20 class D variances and exceptions to build, “set back codes” we’re violated and no incrochment agreement nor was Mr. Paglianite ever contacted to agree to encroachment before Mr. DeMatthias was given these extremely favorable permits, which are violations of the town building codes. Furthermore, the very purpose, use and permits violates the commercial/residential pertecentages per that zone set by the town itself in order to receive permits.
    The recent refusal to move ahead was decided after Mr. DeMatthias sent disparaging letters about Mr. Paglianite to the town and reneged on the agreement, which was to repair his driveway that was damaged by Mr. DeMatthias’ builder, threats to publicly defame him and threats to charge Mr. Paglianite a daily work fee if Mr. Paglianite didn’t sign the agreement. Most recently, the Verona board was trying to force Mr. Paglianite to let Mr. DeMatthias on his property using a “maintenance code, which is intended for repair of existing buildings. Ladies and Gentlemen, that would create case law, which future attorneys could use to allow the town of Verona, or anyone they see fit, to come onto anyone’s property whenever they feel like it. Yes, you read correctly.
    Please keep in mind that all this information was forwarded to this so-called journalist, who was “tipped off” to be at the site Tuesday morning when Mr. Paglianite refused entrance. Coincidentally, Susan also sits on the Environmental board of Verona and knows everyone on the board.
    Oh, did I mention that this property is also a PILOT property, which means the builder is given a substantial tax break and the town looses that tax money which normally 55% percent of would go to the school systems where your children attend, the rest going to the Fire and Police Departments. Now 95% of the reduced tax income will go directly to the town of Verona, which According to town minutes, still has not officially been allocated where that money or the money from the other PILOT programs in town, where be used, like the Annin Flag property (which Mr. DeMatthias tried to squire first) and Hilltop Reservation.
    Mr. Paglianite has had his business in Verona over 20 years and his father for 30 years before him, yet only the mention of Mr. DeMatthias being a Verona high school graduate was mentioned.
    Aaahhhh…smell the corruption?

  2. April Paglianite

    June 30, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Correction, Virginia Citrano holds a position on the Environmental board. See Virginia…that’s responsible reporting. Take a hint.

  3. Jackie

    June 30, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Take this from a person who has lived through this nightmare. There are countless issues unaddressed here. First, How does this building get approved to be built right within inches of someone else’s property line? The concern of Mr Paglianite is for the safety of his clients, employees and young children who attend the ballet school upstairs. Secondly, he has incurred tens of thousands of dollars worth of legal expenses fighting to protect his property and the public. In addition to that, his property has been damaged by the construction and he had take on the additional expense of installing a camera system to ensure that his property wasn’t further trespassed upon and more damage caused; and he has never received a dime from anyone. It should be noted that Mr Paglianite tried repeatedly to come to an agreeable resolution with De Matthis and was insulted with unfair, biased and unscrupulous shenanigans. He entertained these dealings with De Matthis to save many faces in town. At this point, however, he has been hung out to dry, alone, and I believe this extension of courtesy is about to come to an end. It should be noted, as well, that the Town of Verona has completely ignored all communications from Mr Paglianite’s legal representative; one has to wonder why the Town had no interest in addressing the issue of public safety BEFORE the permits were issued and has continued disregarding it since construction started. Fast forward, June 28, 2016, the Town miraculously springs into action to attempt to misuse a Maintenace code (section 107.1 in town code-if anyone cares) to shut the parking lot down for 60 days just for the sole benefit of the developer. Mr Paglianite now has to appear in court on July 6th and is receiving a summons daily until that date. Hopefully the judge will decide to uphold the rights of the public and prevent the Town from abusing the little guy. What about safety? What happened to property rights? What happened to safe enjoyment of your own property? Since this project began I have personally felt endangered pulling into work almost daily. If you ask other customers, including ballet moms with small children in tow, I would bet they felt the same dangers.

    Beware people, big government lives in a small town!!

    All the best,

    “Ill employee”…advanced stage Cancer survivor

  4. Virginia Citrano

    June 30, 2016 at 11:58 am

    April, thanks for your perspective. Just to be clear, the Verona Environmental Commission is a consultative body only. The VEC’s volunteer members prepare an environmental perspective on proposed developments, but we do not have any voting power on the Planning Board, Board of Adjustment or Town Council.

  5. E. Ott

    June 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    It would seem to me that Mr. DeMattheis should have gotten permission to use someone else’s property BEFORE he even applied for the permits. Instead, he waited until after breaking ground. I’ve driven by there, and the space for the driveway is very limited. I have to assume that Mr. Paglianite’s business will be affected if he is forced to close his driveway, even for a few weeks.
    After reading April’s letter above, something doesn’t smell right here…

  6. John McClellan

    June 30, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    This entire project is an abomination. If you look at the boundary markers, it will become clear what the problem is. On residential properties, any construction has to be set back 10′ from any property line. In commercial real estate, set backs are 15′ from any property line. The West side of this apartment complex at one point is less than SIX INCHES from the property line. How did they ever get that variance without the next door neighbors permission? Something is rotten in Denmark, and Verona too for that matter. And it gets worse. When they apply the brick facing to that side of the building, the bricks will either be touching or over the line. And in order to apply the bricks, scaffolding must be erected first. Even if they were able to use a very narrow scaffold, the driveway of the business would be extremely narrow. It would be dangerous for cars to use, as clipping the scaffold could cause it to collapse. You can tell just looking at this monstrosity, that this project wasn’t about making downtown Verona look good, it has only ever been about the Benjamins.

  7. Virginia Citrano

    June 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    John, Mr./Ms. Ott:

    Thank you for your perspective. When a project needs to go before the zoning authorities, as this project did, there is an opportunity for discussion and alterations. Parties who have been noticed are able to weigh in, as is the general public, and comments can also be submitted by letter. Both the Verona Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment have been very accomodating of public input in their hearings and deliberations, and very careful to seek the guidance of their respective board lawyers.

  8. Jackie

    June 30, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Hey!!! Is that a De Mattheis Investments LLC advertisement I see rotating at the top of this page?! Things that make you go hmmmm ?

  9. E. Ott

    June 30, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Thank you Ms. Citrano for your reply. That said, just because Mr. Paglianite had one opportunity to voice his concern, and was not able to be there, doesn’t mean that Mr. DeMattheis should have the right to just use someone else’s property without getting permission, especially if it means closing off his (Mr. Paglianite’s) parking lot for up to two months. Are you suggesting that he should??
    Trying to understand why you are not looking at this objectively…
    OH NOW I SEE. AN AD JUST POPPED UP ON YOUR WEBPAGE. VERONA PLACE, NEW APARTMENTS AVAILABLE..AND GUESS WHO THE OWNER IS…DEMATTEIS INVESTMENTS, LLC. What a coincidence.. Does Mr. Paglianite have to advertise on your web page to get a fair shake. You should be ashamed of yourself calling yourself a reporter.

  10. Virginia Citrano

    June 30, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    Mr./Ms. Ott and Jackie,

    Yes, that is a De Mattheis ad on MyVeronaNJ. The contract for that ad was signed well before I became aware of the affidavit and I have a contractual obligation to honor its term.

  11. Gloria Machnowski

    June 30, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    I am the current chairperson of the Verona Environmental Commission. We are Verona residents and serve without compensation. One of our responsibilities is to review applications sent to the Planning Board and Board of Adjustment to evaluate their impact on the environment and provide non-binding advice. Here are the comments that we submitted regarding this project:
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwlnMRyHmstWT2Z2ZUlZR3JWc1U/view?usp=sharing

  12. Inez

    June 30, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    The time to address these issues were at the public meeting. prior to
    a shovel in the ground. As an owner, within the 200 feet, I was notified of the time, date, and place of the hearing , I posed my questions and concerns as my rights, which Mr Paglianite could have done by letter if unable to attend. As a business owner immediately adjacent to the proposed building, he could have asked the questions he is now concerned about. There was a sufficient advanced notice o the hearing date. The previous owner of the property created a blight.

  13. April Paglianite

    June 30, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Re: DeMattheis advertising
    Virginia, you have been obloviating about this project for well over a year. You’re past articles relating to this property show that. Going back into your past articles, long before today, I have noticed you’re story ALWAYS not only sides with the townships standing but you try to manipulate the citizens in the same fashion. Urging them to come out to show support for stopping projects the town is in legal matters with yet…no strories urging the public to make PILOT permit hearings. I have personally downloaded all the mins to the board meetings pertaining to this issue and I can say that since things have heated up, A LOT of them have been removed from the Verona website.

  14. Virginia Citrano

    July 1, 2016 at 9:17 am

    April, the town Website was infected with malware earlier this year and, after several attempts to scrub the site, they had to take everything offline except a static home page. A new website is being built and should be live soon. If the information you saw before does not reappear, please call the town website administrator, Steve Neale, through the main switchboard at 973-239-3220.

  15. Anne

    July 1, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    I have read the article and comments, and have to shed light and give a very different perspective of Mark DeMatthis than what is portrayed. I am a Verona Place resident and have had many dealings with Mark and his construction crew from the start. Mark has been nothing but professional and fair in all of our dealings. Yes, there were compromises that were made, but none that compromised my property or any deviation on Mark’s part as stated in the comments.
    Verona place is our neighborhood, both residential and business. This project is a revitalization of our neighborhood that once was in desperate need of something other than uncared for vacant lots. We all had the opportunity to challenge this project during many planning board and council meetings. I attended those meetings; Mark’s plans were detailed, backed by professionals who are experts in their field. We trusted the planning board and town council in passing this project, as they did. That was the time for Greg Paglianite to object and/or challenge the plans, not when the building is erected to only slow down the progress and delay the revitalization of our neighborhood.

  16. Maureen

    July 2, 2016 at 11:45 am

    For starters, Happy 4th of July weekend to all!

    I am the neighbor that resides in the middle of the construction with a building on my left and another directly across the street.

    I agree with both Ann’s and Inez’s comments.
    Mark DeMatthis and the construction crew have gone out of their way to make this experience as pleasant as it could possibly be for my family .

    My hopes are that these issues get resolved as soon as possible so we can all get on with our regularly scheduled programs.

  17. April Paglianite

    July 8, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Virginia,
    Where’s the follow up on this story? Have you spoke with the town to report the happenings in court Wednesday? Have you reached out to the DCA to ask what their standing is on this “invalid” maintenance code usage the town was trying to uphold? Nope. Not seeing that article on here. I would guess because it isn’t favorable for your position. I’m not sure you have an apt understanding of the situation or property laws. Perhaps you should look into it.

    Inez that’s a great point. Too bad that option wasn’t given. By law, if the buildings plans encroach on another property owners land, written knowledge needs to be sent and confirmation received along with permission agreement by the property owner who’s being encroached. This never happened making your valid point mute.

    Anne/Maureen, glad you’re having a pleasant experience. I’m sure you’d feel different if DeMattheis and the town threatened you with disparaging press (they made good on that thanks to Virginia) and broke laws threatening you and you came home to have a structure on your property torn down without permission.

    Codes and laws are in place for a reason. These laws can change according to case law, which is what could happen of Verona and DeMattheis, who are by written agreement partners in this project, get away with circumventing laws and codes. That would not be good for anyone.

  18. Virginia Citrano

    July 8, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    April,
    The first round of any legal matter is generally procedural rather than substantive, as it was in Wednesday’s hearing. Mr. Paglianite’s lawyer asked for a motion to postpone court action. He was given the option of making a motion to remove the matter to Superior Court instead of having it heard in Verona. No decision was made at Wednesday’s hearing. Today, Verona’s town manager confirmed that the matter will be heard in Verona Municipal Court on Wednesday, August 10. At that time, there should be a fuller discussion of the laws and facts surrounding this matter.

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