BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Although Bernards Township's affordable housing plan was not on the agenda, the issue dominated Tuesday night's Township Committee meeting, with neighbors of a new zone that would allow up to 280 housing units off Mountainview Boulevard -- including 62 low- to moderate-income units -- saying they had already objected to the plan before the state judge who must decide whether the township has met its state-ordered affordable housing quota.

Residents Celeste Como and Dave Griffen said they already have retained an attorney and filed an objection to the plan. Como said they will decide by the end of the week whether to follow through on filing a complaint in state court attacking the validity of the township ordinance changing the zoning on the property from an office zone with an already-approved plan to a housing zone tailor-made to allow construction of SJP Properties' proposed multifamily housing development.

Another resident, Lourdes Conejo-Krohn read before the Township Committee a letter she filed with Supreme Court Judge Thomas C. Miller in Somerville, and said she also had attended a hearing with the NJ Fair Share Housing Council and the township's attorney.

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The letter said the site has neither of the criteria stated in state codes that an affordable housing project should be "adjacent to compatible land uses and has access to appropriate streets."

Instead, the occupants of the 280 housing units, to include an anticipated 100 children, would be adjacent to office buildings off the private dead-end road, and nearby to a local Memorial Sloan-Kettering cancer care facility. "Children should not grow up in a corporate park," the letter stated.

The proposal has not yet been filed with the township Planning Board, but filled a remaining gap in the township's negotiated number of affordable housing units in a statewide lawsuit filed by an interest group for housing. The Township Committee voted 3-2 to allow the zone change in September.

Although Township Attorney John Belardo said he would not discuss an issue on which complaints already have been made, Mayor John Carpenter assured residents that the Planning Board would listen to all concerns by citizens if SJP actually files an application to build the housing. Under the state's affordable housing rules, municipalities must zone for the opportunity for the construction of housing, but are not required to make sure it is actually built.

Later in the meeting, after the residents had departed, Belardo noted that he had passed along elevation exhibits to the residents' attorney. He said that the proposed housing development would not impose on the neighboring streets, and added that the exhibits are available to the public through the municipal clerk's office.

Tuesday night's agenda does not include a proposed resolution and discussion on a plan outlining in detail the township's plan for meeting its most recent state-ordered Affordable Housing obligation, which was on the agenda for the Oct. 9 meeting canceled due to a lack of quorum. The announcement that called off that meeting said agenda items would be moved to Oct. 23's meeting.

The plan, which is outlined in detail online, addresses how the township has already met, or plans to meet, its previous affordable housing quota of 508 low- to moderate-income housing units from 1987 through 1999, 44 units of rehabilitated housing, fulfilling the present need of providing 435 units as of 2015, and the projected need of providing 438 units between 2015 to 2025. 

Special meeting date set

However, The Bernards Township Committee has scheduled an additional meeting for 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, at the municipal building at 1 Collyer Lane in Basking Ridge, with the full agenda to be posted at least 48 hours before the meeting, the township clerk's office announced on Thursday. Formal action will be taken at the meeting, the announcement said.

MORE TO COME