CHATHAM, NJ - After hearing from an overflow crowd of angry residents about its lack of transparency, all five Chatham Township Committee members said Tuesday night they would reconsider their votes that designated the municipal building as an affordable housing site.
Just five days after voting to turn over the municipal building at 58 Meyersville Rd. to a developer for construction of 65 affordable housing units, the committee said it would try to delay its compliance to a court settlement at a Special Meeting on Affordable Housing that began Tuesday night and ended on Wednesday after a 4-hour, 47-minute session.
The Township Committee will vote to "reconsider" its designation at its next regular meeting on Dec. 12. One possible idea brought up at the meeting is to move the Chatham Township Police Department to the municipal building and construct more affordable housing at the site of the CTPD building on Southern Boulevard.
Chatham Township Attorney Albert Cruz said there is a Dec. 17 conference date to update the court on the progress of naming a site for affordable housing construction. Cruz said he will act on the advice of the committee in possibly seeking a delay in the compliance of the settlement in order to consider other options.
The committee had voted, 4-1, in naming the municipal building as the designated site for its third round share of affordable housing in its litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center. Karen Swartz, the lone no vote, said the committee should risk "builders remedy" lawsuits instead of handing over an asset such as the municipal building (see video below).
Chatham Township resident and developer Brent Jenkins has worked on affordable housing projects himself. He said he felt "completely disrespected" to hear that the committee had voted without letting the public know about its plans before it voted last week. (see video below)
Stacy Ewald, who will be sworn in as a committee member in January, asked the committee members to tell the public if they would vote to delay the decision to turn over the municipal building for affordable housing. Committee member Curt Ritter responded in the video below.
"The only other readily available option is to move the police building and build affordable housing at that site," Committee member Tracy Ness said. "The time to plan for affordable housing and seek community input was four years ago when the township chose to the option of 100% affordable housing on a municipal site that required some municipal funding. That didn't happen, so we have very few options in 2019."
Mayor Tayfun Selen said the committee would meet to consider the suggestions made by the public.