By Allison Perrine
RUMSON – A technicality puts developer Roger Mumford, owner of Yellow Brook Property Co. LLC, back at the starting line with his plans to bring 14 luxury residential units and related improvements to 91 Rumson Road.
At Monday night’s planning board meeting, attorney Ron Gasiorowski – representing a resident who lives adjacent to the site in question – argued Yellow Brook did not meet a state-mandated legal notice requirement before the application’s first hearing in August. Therefore, the application process should “start from scratch.” Despite a solid rebuttal from attorney Craig Gianetti on behalf of Yellow Brook, the board ultimately agreed.
“I want to make sure that the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed and we don’t wind up in court for a lengthy period of time over a technical issue that possibly has teeth to it,” said Rumson Planning Board attorney Michael Steib. “My inclination is to exercise the greatest degree of caution possible – and particularly when we’re talking about a potential technical defect that could result in an overturning of an approval, if the board saw fit to approve this application.” The 5.8-acre site currently contains a two-and- a-half-story dwelling and covered porch, gravel driveway, fences and land- scape walls. The application calls for demolition of the existing features and construction of 14 luxury residential units across two duplex buildings, two carriage homes and two triplex buildings.
Landscaping improvements, a private roadway, curbing, lighting, a stormwater drainage system and more are also part of the plans, which are in accordance with a settlement agreement between the borough and Yellow Brook. In January 2020, the borough signed two settlement agreements, one with Yellow Brook and the other with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) nonprofit, to help meet its state-mandated Mount Laurel fair share affordable housing obligations. Rumson’s total affordable housing obligation is 603 units but through negotiations with FSHC, a realistic development potential (RDP) of 51 units was determined. That need will be met with five existing affordable housing units; turning existing market-rate units into affordable units; using rental bonus credits; and bringing in new rental and special needs bedrooms in the form of 100 percent affordable, special needs municipally and developer-sponsored projects.
The borough’s unmet need of 552 will largely be addressed with overlay zoning, which allows a property owner to keep the property as it has always been or also one day develop multifamily housing with affordable set-asides. There are no affordable units planned for the Rumson Road project. Instead, Yellow Brook will donate a property it owns on Carton Street to the borough and will pay $1.45 million to the borough’s affordable housing trust fund. Rumson will build a 14-unit, 100 percent affordable project with funds from the trust. It will be one component of the borough’s overall plan to meet its obligation.
Gasiorowski’s objection stems from a state law that requires any applicant seeking a variance – whether it be to construct a housing complex or a deck in a residential backyard – to provide written legal notice to all property owners within 200 feet of the property in question. The notice must contain project proposal details, dates and times of public hearings on the application and other specifics. According to Gasiorowski, Yellow Brook did not notify a property owner of Lot 34 where a small triangular piece of land is seen in the application plans. But according to Gianetti, Yellow Brook has no intentions of doing anything with that piece of land. “What’s there is there. We’re not proposing to improve it; we’re also not proposing to remove it,” said Gianetti. “We should not have to include all of Lot 34 when we’re doing our 200 foot list.”
Steib felt as if Gasiorowski’s argument could have some merit, he said. And because this is an “important application and issue” relating to the borough’s affordable housing plan, he agreed that noticing should be redone and the hearing should restart, likely at the board’s next meeting in November.
The article originally appeared in the October 7 – 13, 2021 print edition of The Two River Times.