Facing Backlash On Affordable Housing Plan, Hazlet Looks To Explore Other Solutions

September 9, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo |

HAZLET – Yielding to pressure from unhappy residents, the Township Committee has put the brakes on its voluntary affordable housing compliance plan that could have paved the way for high-density housing at the former Holy Family School property and Stone Road Meadows farmland tract.

Instead, Mayor Scott Aagre announced at a meeting Tuesday night that the township plans to name a special counsel for affordable housing matters by Sept. 18, create a citizens advisory board and take the first step toward potentially acquiring the farmland tract by ordering a property appraisal.

Aagre also said the citizens advisory board on affordable housing will be headed by committee members Barbara Ronchetti, a Democrat, and Michael Glackin, a Republican.

“We’re trying to make this equal and nonpartisan,” Aagre said. “It’s not political.” Aagre said the advisory board would include five to seven township residents who will be notified of their appointment in coming days.

The Township Committee is also seeking an appraisal for the vacant 26-acre plot known as the Stone Road Meadow tract, a property located on the Union Beach border that sits across State Route 36 from the 17-acre Holy Family School, both of which are targeted for development and being negotiated by Hazlet and Fair Share Housing Center.

This announcement comes less than a month after a raucous committee meeting at which more than 200 residents filled town hall to protest an affordable housing settlement that would permit approximately 480 new housing units at these two properties.

The agreement would rezone Holy Family for 172 units, 26 of which would be designated as affordable housing units. The Stone Road Meadows tract would be rezoned for 312 units, 63 of which are to be affordable.

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In a statement issued by Aagre Aug. 28, the mayor lamented that though low-cost housing exists in the township, it is not recognized under the guidelines.

“Hazlet has always maintained that it has never used its zoning power to exclude or discriminate low and moderate income households and that Hazlet has more than its fair share of affordable housing. Unfortunately, the state does not recognize the nine mobile home parks and the existing housing inventory since these were built prior to the state’s mandate and Affordable Housing Act.”

Hazlet has gone more than three decades without filing an affordable housing plan with the state, and was served a Builder’s Remedy lawsuit in November 2015 by Highview Homes, LLC for the development project proposed at the Holy Family School.

The township is eyeing the Stone Road Meadows property for development to meet its affordable housing compliance, but residents have pushed back against building on the site.

In his statement, Aagre said Hazlet is 98 percent built out and the state has agreed to the proposed compliance plan.

“This compliance plan includes zoning for new affordable and market value residential units. It is the least intrusive compliance plan the state has ever agreed to and provides protection for Hazlet from future developers coming in and densifying our current community with other potential sites through builders remedy lawsuits,” Aagre said.

According to his statement, Aagre said Hazlet’s Affordable Housing Compliance Plan will be removed from the committee agenda until a compliance plan is formulated that can receive a majority agreement from the Township Committee and residents of Hazlet, or as ordered by the state Superior Court.

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This article was first published in the Sept. 6-13, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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