Manalapan Township Committeeman Andrew Lucas’ $1.152 million sale of the development rights to a farm in owns in the Township was not approved by his colleagues on the committee this evening. The motion to approve the Township’s $187,000 contribution to the the purchased failed on a 2-2 vote.
Committeeman Ryan Green first moved to table the purchase due to incomplete documentation. Committeeman Jordan Maskowitz voted with Green to table the purchase. Mayor Susan Cohen and Committeeman Donald Holland voted against tabling. Cohen and Holland then voted to approve the purchase. Green and Maskowitz voted no. Lucas the fifth member of the committee recused himself from voting on the purchase of his own property.
Green told MMM that Lucas left the dais when the matter came up and left the building. Lucas did not return for the remainder of the Township Committee meeting.
Green said he has not decided how he would vote when and if the documentation for the sale is completed.
Monmouth County’s portion of the purchase is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders. The Freeholders will not proceed without Manalapan’s portion of the purchase being approved, according to Freeholder Director Tom Arnone.
Lucas, Manalapan’s former mayor and a former GOP candidate for freeholder, purchased the farm which had been slated for development in March of 2010 for an undisclosed amount. Soon thereafter he started the process of selling the development rights, for $1.152 million, through funding through the State, County and Township. Lucas participated on Township Committee discussions of his application.
The purchase approved by the Freeholder Board in May of 2011 was held up by an ethics complaint filed by former Manalapan Mayor George Spodak. The State Agriculture Development Committee conditioned its funding on an satisfactory ethics review of the transaction. Local Finance Board Chairman Thomas Neff wrote Lucas in September of last year to inform him that his application had been approved because he consulted with the Manalapan Township Attorney about his application. Neff’s letter also said that the Board would use Lucas’s case to provide clear guidance to future office holders to recuse themselves from applications that they have an interest in.
Arnone and Freeholder John Curley have announced that they oppose the purchase of the Lucas farm. Freeholder Lillian Burry supports the purchase. Deputy Director Serena DiMaso and Freeholder Gary Rich have not announced how they would vote on the purchase should it make it out of Manalapan.