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HOVNANIAN ABANDONS MONEY PIT

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Red Bank-based K. Hovnanian Homes has pulled the plug on a controversial plan to build up to 4,500 homes in Ocean County’s Berkeley Township after an adverse court ruling.

“We are not going to pursue this,” company spokesman Douglas Fenichel told the Asbury Park Press.

“I don’t have to tell you the market has changed,” Fenichel said. “It was as much a market decision as anything.”

The decision comes two months after a state Superior Court in Ocean county rejected Hovnanian’s claim in a lawsuit that Berkeley wasn’t providing its fair share of affordable housing. The company wanted to force the town to rezone more than 800 acres at the New Jersey Pulverizing gravel pits to allow for development.

“It’s a tremendous boost to the township’s efforts to control sprawl,” Berkeley Mayor Jason J. Varano said of the company’s decision, according to the Press.

Hovnanian Enterprises, which last year moved into a new headquarters on Red Bank’s West Front Street, has been taking its financial lumps of late amid a softening of the residential real estate market over the past year.

The Press report includes this recap of events in the Bayville section of Berkeley:

K. Hovnanian proposed 1,600 homes when it first approached Berkeley land-use planners about six years ago. But under pressure from Save Barnegat Bay, political sentiment in town turned against the proposal.

The company resorted to a “builder’s remedy” lawsuit, arguing that its plans should move forward to address an alleged deficiency in Berkeley’s supply of affordable housing. Last January, a state Superior Court judge agreed with the township’s contention that it had fulfilled its affordable housing obligations under state law.

The case was in litigation for three years, and K. Hovnanian could have opted to pursue it further in state appellate court, said Sheehan, the township attorney. Instead, “I’d received word verbally on Friday they weren’t going to pursue it,” he said.

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