GLEN ROCK, NJ - The mayor briefly recapped a special meeting in which residents asked questions and voiced their opinion on the affordable housing decision the Glen Rock Borough Council approved on September 25.
The special meeting, held on Oct. 3, was specifically to address the public's questions on the matter. The settlement, which the council approved to stave off builders' remedy lawsuits which in turn could invite more densely packed affordable housing sites, will include 100% affordable housing at 261 Rock Road: 11 apartments, three stories, 17 parking spaces; and 23 Kenmore Place: 2 separate families living at the location.
"There were a lot of accusations thrown around," Mayor Bruce Packer said at the October 7 council meeting. "I realize people are frustrated and angry, but there were no improprieties here. Our planner was involved in every aspect. Every accusation thrown at us was false."
Residents had displayed their displeasure at earlier meetings after learning the council had settled its affordable housing issue, the same issue all municipalities had and still have statewide which requires them to allow builders to include below market rate units anywhere new housing can be built.
Residents have said repeatedly they are not opposed to the idea of affordable housing but that they are opposed to having it built so densely in one spot.
While the government cannot force private land to become affordable housing, private landowners can offer their land to assist in fulfilling affordable housing requirements, which is what occurred in this case, according to Mayor Packer. The housing rules are based on the Mount Laurel court decision which is packed with complexity and rules local governments must abide by.
The council approved the decision with one abstention.
Councilwoman Michelle Torpey abstained on the affordable housing vote when it was cast on September 25. She further explained her vote to TAPinto.
"First off, I fully support Affordable Housing," she said. "It was both difficult and important to listen to residents' concerns. Some of the specific issues they raised in both the public council session on Sept. 9 and Wednesday night on Sept. 25 were insightful and not discussed previously during my short tenure. In my nine weeks in my role as Interim Council Member, I did not feel comfortable with the data before me to move forward with the current proposal. Residents raised valid concerns, especially from a safety, integration and location perspective. Also, lacking was the town's plan to offset depreciation and protect home values, which I am aware neighboring towns do offer tax relief for certain home locations or adjacencies."
She continued. "If our roles were reversed and I received notice via mail in the way they did, I would have the same concerns. I could not vote yes in good conscience. They deserve answers, and as their Council representative it is incumbent upon me to listen to them and factor their concerns in my decision, or in this case, to hold back until we have further information and have sorted through questions and issues further."
"I understand this is a process," Torpey said. "I am hopeful as this effort proceeds along we can work together, both Council and residents, to solve these concerns."