BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The Planning Board's approval this week of a 280-unit housing development off Mountainview Boulevard, with a proposed 62 units of state-ordered affordable housing, is the third and final project approved to settle the township's affordable housing obligation _ at least until 2025. [Updated] 

The Bernards Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved SJP Property's application to build two adjoining housing developments at the far end of Mountainview Boulevard in the southern part of the township. One section on about 30 acres will feature three residential buildings with 220 units, to include 62 units set aside for very low, low, and moderate-income residents. SJP Properties planning to construct 77 studio and one-bedroom units, 130 two-bedroom units, and 13 three-bedroom units within the three buildings, which would also share a common amenity space with a pool, play areas, and other shared facilities, according to the application.

A separate development with 60 three-bedroom townhouses on about 42 acres, part of the same application, would consist completely of market-rate units, according to the proposal.

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The multifamily housing would be built on a now undeveloped tract of just over 71 acres near the Memorial Sloan Kettering facility.

The plan approved by the board was largely in compliance with an earlier Township Committee ordinance that created a multifamily housing zone to include 62 units of state-ordered affordable housing. Variances were given for such features as a 10-foot fence to separate a basketball court from a planning area, and an 8-foot fence that together with 20-foot high evergreens would help buffer views of the new development from neighboring properties.

No start date given at meeting

Thomas J. Malman, attorney for the developer, said on Tuesday it was too soon to say when construction might begin on the now-wooded terrain.

Planning Board Chair Kippy Piedici lauded neighbors, the applicant, and the board's professional for working on a plan that represented some changes and compromises during months of hearings before the board. 

Two other projects previously approved

In the past year or so, the township Planning Board had already approved two other housing projects that will include affordable housing at Dewy Meadow Village and on Crown Court Drive, both off King George Road.

The Crown Court project was approved for an additional 24 housing units, including four low and moderate income units.

The Dewy Meadow Village property, owned by Bernards Plaza, will have a multifamily housing overlay zone created that will permit 198 residential units, including a 15% set aside for units to be affordable to very low, low and moderate income households, to be built, according to plans.

The proposal from SJP Properties was on the Jan. 21 agenda for for final Planning Board approval after initially being presented to the Planning Board last September. 

Planning Board officials had hoped to wrap up its hearings in December on the Mountainview project; however, after testimony from witnesses for the developer, the hearing was been carried over for continuation into January. Revised plans for on-site recreation and a discussion of zoning variances sought were presented on Tuesday, although the applicant met most major zoning requirements, including those for density of development, height of buildings, and more.

But the one resident who spoke, Lourdes Cornejo-Krohn of Emerald Valley Lane, said the approval of an application tailor-made for a specific piece of property with a set plan is a "cautionary tale" that gave the Planning Board little room to question such potential impacts as traffic.

"We are sitting here and our hands are tied. It's too late," she said. She and others said that approval of an application had been decided following the Township Committee's previous approval of a multifamily zone on land previously zoned for commercial use.

The Township Committee had voted 3-2 in September 2018 to change the zoning on the Mountainview property from a commercial site to a multifamily housing zone as the final project to settle a lawsuit brough against the township _ and other municipalities throughout New Jersey _ by a statewide affordable housing group. The next round of affordable housing planning is expected to take place in 2025.

A corporate office complex had previously been planned _ and approved _ for development on the site. The property was rezoned for potential development with multifamily housing as part of the township's state affordable housing plan.

Two site walks were held on the property, the first while leaves were on the trees, and the second on Nov. 16, after many of the leaves were off the trees. 

Earlier in the fall, Ron Kennedy, engineer for the applicant, told the Planning Board that the plan for the buildings would use the grade changes of the property to help shield the development from neighbors' view.

Planner John McDonough on Tuesday said that larger trees _ including 125 evergreens that will be planted at 20 feet in height _ will also provide an immediate buffer between the project and neighbors.