By Jay Cook |
HOLMDEL – Discussions over what impact affordable housing would have on New Jersey towns have been constant since 1975, and that conversation continued at this week’s well-attended committee meeting.
“Nobody wants to see sprawl,” said Holmdel committeeman Eric Hinds, referring to oversaturating affordable housing units across town. “We’re trying to satisfy our obligation without impacting anything.”
Holmdel’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) attorney Andrew Bayer, of the GluckWalrath firm with Trenton and Red Bank offices, told curious residents that the township “has done well” and housing obligations are “significantly lower” than neighboring towns.
Bayer referenced a 2016 expert report from the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), a non-profit organization that litigates towns to uphold their affordable housing requirements. The document outlines the prospective number of new affordable housing credits for towns across the state.
According to the report, Holmdel is responsible for creating 393 new affordable housing credits, above the 768 current credit in the township. New credits can be obtained a number of ways, including through extending controls on previous housing units, and also by adding assisted living units, inclusionary housing units, or 100 percent affordable housing developments.
Surrounding towns have a much more noticeable burden, Bayer noted. Howell Township would be responsible for 1,368 new credits, Marlboro Township needs 1,370 additional credits, Manalapan Township would be obligated to add 999 credits, and Hazlet, Holmdel’s most immediate neighbor, would be on the hook for creating 723 new credits.
Holmdel is also part of ongoing litigation within the Monmouth County Superior Court over how much affordable housing each municipality must provide.
Bayer said that case will be heard after a similar trial concludes in Mercer County, which with Monmouth County shares a COAH region. A decision in that case is anticipated in coming months.
Regarding what Holmdel might be responsible for, Bayer said he hopes he would “have something more formal” for them to consider near the end of this summer.
New Jersey is currently in the third round of COAH obligations under the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decision of 1975, which found that municipalities across the state could not change local zoning laws to step away from providing affordable housing to low-income residents.
Bayer told the township committee that Holmdel has engaged in a mediation process with FSHC, with one meeting so far. Discussions are ongoing, he said.
“If we’re able to reach an agreement with Fair Share Housing Center, we would put a settlement agreement together for the committee to consider,” Bayer said, adding the township would then need to identify what site or sites it would want to include in its affordable housing plan.
According to Holmdel’s municipal website, the township currently offers eight affordable housing locations across its approximately 18 square miles. Purchase opportunity locations are Fox Chase, Gracewood Glen, Hidden Woods, and The Orchards. Rentals consist of Laurel Village, Holmdel Meadows, and Holmdel Village, which is strictly senior living.
The one location offering both purchase and rental property is Palmer Square, which became a hot topic of discussion in town recently. The township’s Planning Board denied an application in 2015 for an affordable housing complex next to Palmer Square, located on Palmer Avenue. Chief concerns were not about denying affordable housing, but keeping it away from roadways that flood numerous times throughout the year.
Residents provided opinions to the township Tuesday evening over other potential sites for new affordable housing units or complexes in town.
Anthony Cooper noted the nearly 400 acres of land dedicated to the newly renovated Bell Works campus would be a prime location to satisfy some of the town’s requirements.
Toll Brothers, the real estate company developing homes on site, was approved for 225 homes through a redevelopment plan of property.
“It would seem to me that the citizens of Holmdel have every right to expect that Toll Brothers would be in a position to make a reasonable and significant contribution to Holmdel’s affordable housing situation going forward,” Cooper said.
Stephanie Maglino suggested Holmdel look at the vacant property formerly occupied by Bayshore Greenhouse and Farm, which sits across from Bayshore Medical Center.
“That to me seems like it would be the perfect place,” for affordable housing, Maglino said, adding that there would be “very little public opposition.”
Referencing any and all potential affordable housing developments, township attorney Michael L. Collins made it clear that “the township is looking at all the possibilities” to meet its housing obligations.
This article was first published in the June 29-July 6, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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