SEA ISLE CITY — Developer, Realtor and local chamber President Christopher Glancey is suing the city and its longtime mayor for $1 million in damages, claiming city officials abused their power to stifle a competitor.
In the suit filed April 3 in U.S. District Court for New Jersey, Glancey alleges Mayor Leonard Desiderio, also a local bar owner, conspired with other city officials to stop Glancey from opening a restaurant and apartment complex in Townsends Inlet by delaying the permitting process. He said those delays caused him to lose revenue and incur excess costs.
“That delayed us months and months from being open. This is for the monetary damages,” Glancey said Tuesday.
The complaint also names Sea Isle City Business Administrator George Savastano, city Solicitor Paul Baldini and Desiderio’s businesses, Kix McNutley’s and Sea Isle Inn.
Desiderio could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Savastano said the matter has been referred to the Joint Insurance Fund. He said an attorney has not been assigned to the case but he expects one “any day.”
Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House opened last summer at the site of the former Busch’s Seafood after Glancey sued the city in Cape May County Superior Court over the permitting delays. Judge Julio Mendez found in Glancey’s favor, ruling “the construction official/zoning officer’s issuance of a stop-work order and denial of permits was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and premature.”
In the new, 12-count federal complaint, Glancey alleges conspiracy, negligence and violations of his civil right to use and enjoy his property, due process, equal protection, the New Jersey Antitrust Act and the Sherman Act. Glancey is represented by Timothy Bloh of Fox Rothschild.
According to the complaint, the Sea Isle City Planning Board approved Glancey’s application for a mixed-use building at 86th Street in 2010. The plans called for a three-story building with a restaurant and 13 residential units. The plans for the building were revised in 2014 and 2015 and received administrative approval from the Planning Board chairwoman, the complaint states.
The complaint says that in 2015, Glancey was issued permits for the residential units, but not the restaurant. When he requested the construction permits for the restaurant, Glancey says he was instead questioned on the intended use of the residential units, preventing him from moving forward on construction.
After some back and forth, a stop-work order was issued in September 2015 and Glancey filed his first legal challenge over the city’s authority to deny him permits.
Glancey said the case last year centered on a disagreement over what constituted a residential rental unit. He said he was disappointed the city was arguing that residential rental units should be for a minimum of 30 days, as the entire local economy is based on weekly rentals.
“Weekly rentals (are) how the business community survives in Sea Isle. It’s how every (Cape May County) business community survives. We are a tourist destination,” he said.
Meanwhile, Glancey is in the midst of two other mixed-use projects at 86th Street in Sea Isle. He said he plans to move forward with those projects, a new Blitz’s market and another commercial unit, both with residential units above.
“I’m hopeful that the city wouldn’t interfere again, that they would follow the law this time. The city needs to follow the law,” Glancey said.
The city has not responded to the suit but has until the end of April to do so.