Little Silver Introduces Zoning Ordinances For Affordable Housing

August 19, 2018
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Borough planner Elizabeth McManus, left, and affordable housing attorney Michael Edwards, standing, introduced five new zoning ordinances to Little Silver residents at a special meeting of the borough council Aug. 13.

By Chris Rotolo

LITTLE SILVER – A special meeting concerning the borough’s affordable housing obligations settlement agreement was held Aug. 13, where five new ordinances were introduced.

When a public hearing is held Sept. 10 and the ordinances are presumably adopted, they will amend Little Silver’s current Land Use Ordinance to comply with the town’s affordable housing settlement agreement.

According to borough planner Elizabeth McManus, who was joined by affordable housing attorney Michael Edwards, once instituted these ordinances will help protect the municipality by controlling its zoning guidelines, while still fulfilling Little Silver’s affordable housing obligation of 230 new credits.

Due to a lack of land, that number was reduced to a realistic development potential of 21 units and, according to McManus, the borough has already met more than half of its current obligation thanks to the Carriage Gate project on Eastview Avenue, a 39-unit townhouse development that includes eight existing low or moderate income dwellings, plus an additional three credits due to its proximity to the train station.

“What we’re really doing by passing these ordinances is that the borough is implementing the settlement agreement with Fair Share Housing Center. But on a bigger scale, what’s being done is creating compliance with the state’s affordable housing regulations, which is key, because it prevents builder’s remedy,” McManus said.

Boroughs that are not compliant with the state’s affordable housing regulations are susceptible to “builders remedy” lawsuits, when a developer proposes housing projects in towns that have not reached an agreement.

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When served these lawsuits, residents and local officials can be at the mercy of the developer and often have little say in where the proposed housing projects are to be constructed, a situation currently affecting Hazlet Township.

With the adoption of these five ordinances, Little Silver has identified specific sites – or overlay zones – around town for potential new construction projects that would include affordable units, if the owners of those properties became willing sellers. Those sites are:

  • Little Silver Tennis Club, 100 Birch Ave.: 9 residential units per acre.
  • NJ Transit Train Station Parking Lot, Oceanport Avenue: 15 residential units per acre.
  • Intersection of Oceanport and Eastview avenues: 11 residential units per acre.
  • Intersection of Birch and Branch streets: 11 residential units per acre.
  • Builders’ General, 15 Sycamore Ave.: 13 residential units per acre.
  • Prospect Avenue P2 Zone District, across from fire station: 9 residential units per acre.
  • Wicker Rose Property, 1 Sycamore Ave.: 11 residential units per acre.

“Identifying each of these zones was subject to a lot of negotiation with Fair Share Housing Center,” McManus said to the approximately 50 residents on hand at the Aug. 13 session.

“When we first started the process, they were looking at a much larger area surrounding the train station, along Birch Avenue, and also along Prospect Avenue. After multiple months of discussion, we were finally able to reduce these areas down to these overlay zones and limit the areas that were subject to the change,” she added.

“One of the sites Fair Share Housing was initially pushing for was the Parker Homestead,” said Mayor Robert C. Neff Jr., referencing the historical home located near Rumson Road and Sickles Market. “The negotiations and the identification of these zones is a positive for our residents.”

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Edwards confirmed that the current underlying zoning of these properties remains in place, meaning current property owners will not be adversely impacted. Instead, this provides another development option for the land should they ever choose to sell.

“The borough will not build anything on these sites. All of these mechanisms, each of these affordable housing sites, the overlay zones, are simply zoning that creates the opportunity for someone else to do the development,” McManus said.

The ordinances also designate areas in the community for an accessory apartment program, which allows for affordable housing apartment units to be built over garages or added to a single-family home, including in neighborhoods surrounding Seven Bridges Road and Harding Road, as well as near Sickles Market, Church Street and residential zones near Prospect Avenue.

Though this has been a rigorous process for the borough, Little Silver is not finished with affordable housing. This new settlement agreement will maintain the borough’s obligation through 2025, but another round of negotiations will follow throughout the state, increasing the town’s obligation and unmet need, which now sits at 406 units.

“Affordable housing is never finished in New Jersey, but the legwork this town has done to get to this point will never be lost,” McManus said. “While we will have a new number, a new obligation and will potentially have to negotiate again with the Fair Share Housing Center, the basis is in place. We’ll simply be building upon it.”

This article first appeared in the August 16 – 23, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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