RIDGEWOOD, NJ - There’s still work to be done by the Village of Ridgewood to satisfy its obligations under a recent settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) over the issue of affordable housing, a planning consultant told the Ridgewood Village Council on Wednesday.

Beth McManus, the consultant, said that the “elephant in the room” regarding the settlement was an affordable housing component of the Village’s redevelopment plan for The Valley Hospital site.

The settlement between the Village and FSHC required adoption of a redevelopment plan that would create 35 to 45 family affordable units by approximately September 2020 or adopt overlay zoning at the Valley Hospital site of 12 dwelling units per acre. 

McManus told the Council that the Village has two choices: adopt overlay zoning at the current hospital site or seek an extension of time from Fair Share and the Bergen County Superior Court to designate the area in need of development and adopt a redevelopment plan. “Any request for additional time should be accompanied by a schedule,” McManus wrote in a memo to the Council on June 1. 

Ridgewood Village Attorney Matthew Rogers said Wednesday that he has recently been in contact with Robin Goldfischer, general counsel of The Valley Hospital, to bring the site into conformity with the Village’s zoning ordinances. Rogers told the Village Council that he would next contact the Fair Share Housing Center to ask for additional time for the council to adopt a redevelopment plan. 

“We need Valley’s help to develop an ordinance to make the present facility conforming,” Rogers said, adding that he would then also ask the court (which needs to approve the plan) for additional time. 

The new Valley Hospital, first announced in 2017, will be located on Winters Avenue in Paramus, just 2.5 miles from Valley’s current campus in Ridgewood. The hospital said that the Paramus site will be the central point of a 40-acre health and wellness campus, will incorporate the latest innovations and best practices in modern healthcare facility design, with all single-patient rooms to enhance patient privacy, safety and comfort.

The McManus memo said that additional multiple actions need to be completed by the Village in order for it to satisfy its affordable housing obligation and to receive a Judgement of Repose from the Superior Court. Approval by the court would also give the village immunity from Builder’s Remedy litigation through July 2025, McManus wrote. 

In other Council developments on Wednesday, multiple residents called in and expressed concern over new pickleball regulations, including one resident who said that by limiting the hours that senior citizens could play was discriminatory. Mayor Susan Knudsen denied that the Council was discriminating in changing the hours of play. 

“Nobody on this council is discriminating against anyone,” Knudsen said. 

Councilwoman Pamela Perron also expressed concern that the recent budget process was not transparent for the public. 

“When people don’t have budget documents, they might as well be listening to a foreign language,” Perron said at the work session. To that, Knudsen said “this budget process was the most transparent ever,” adding that “this particular process was different due to Zoom and to Covid. I think it’s unfair to suggest that.” 

Resident Linda Scarpa complained that Knudsen, in previous meetings, had unfairly prevented her from identifying council members and staff by name. Rogers said that the Village ordinance on that issue deals only with decorum but does not prevent the public from naming council members and staff in their comments. Scarpa has been a consistent critic of Knudsen and the Council for passing a budget that drastically reduced the per diem employees of the Ridgewood Emergency Services in favor of hiring two new Ridgewood firefighters. 

Rogers said that “anyone determined to be disruptive, argumentative, (using) bad language, threats, that kind of behavior is restricted. My opinion is that people can say names of council members...but accusing people of theft, ethical violations, naming them, ...that type of demeanor can be restricted. That’s my interpretation. “

Village Manager Heather Mailander also announced that primary elections will be held in the Village on June 8 from 6 am to 8 pm. 

The next Village Council meeting, which will mark the return of in person meetings, is set for June 9 at 8 pm. Mailander said that Zoom will no longer be used for meetings, which means that residents who can’t attend will no longer have the option of calling in with public comments. 

(Note: A previous version of this story had the incorrect date for the next Village Council meeting).