BERNARDS TWP., NJ - The Bernards Township Committee settled an affordable housing lawsuit and agreed to rezone for multifamily housing off Mountain View Boulevard at its last meeting, and this Tuesday is set to give the final approval to the new zone, which would allow construction of up to 280 residential units at that location.
If the project is built--after undergoing review by the Township Planning Board--the development would include construction of 62 units of state-ordered affordable housing that, combined with other affordable housing either planned or built, would be enough to fulfill the township's quota through 2025, township officials said.
The Tuesday Township Committee meeting is posted online. The public portion of the meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the main meeting room at the town hall, 1 Collyer Lane, in downtown Basking Ridge.
The Aug. 28 Township Committee vote of 3 to 1 to approve the settlement and new zoning followed objections by members of the public and a Township Committee member to hold off for closer consideration of the proposals.
“In my opinion, the process should afford more time for public participation and comment and for the developers to modify their plans to address the concerns raised at the August 14 Township Committee meeting," said Township Committeewoman Carol Bianchi.
Bianchi voted against the resolutions and ordinance introduction on Aug. 28 but Mayor John Carpenter, Deputy Mayor John Malay and Township Committeeman James Baldassare voted in favor.
"This is what we have to do at this point in time," Baldassare said.
"There seems to be such a big rush to push this through," said one of the residents who spoke last month, Lorrie Lane. She noted that another housing project to include affordable housing is also planned for the former A&P supermarket site at Dewy Meadows Village.
"I think you should work with the residents," Lane said, particularly after plans to build homes, a hotel, retail space and other uses at the former Millington Quarry grew larger than originally proposed, and was quashed following resident protests.
As he had said at an earlier meeting in August, Township Attorney John Belardo told the public that the township has court "immunity" until Sept. 30 from lawsuits from other developers seeking to build affordable housing as part of larger developments. He said that the judge in charge of the case could extend immunity after that date, but there is no guarantee.
Responding to a public comment that the township should "honor" zoning in place, Carpenter said that that officials want to do just that, "But the [state] Supreme Court won't let us honor our zoning."
Along with approving an agreement to rezone 71 acres owned by SJP Properties _ on which SJP already holds approvals to build 344,000-square feet of office space _ the also governing body also on Aug. 28 approved a settlement with the statewide Fair Share Housing Center to end litigation related to decades-old Mount Laurel litigation against towns with "exclusionary" zoning against low- to moderate-inome residents.
At the first meeting in August, Township Committee members voted 3-2 to select the proposed developer of the Mountainview project to close the remaining gap in coming up with almost 900 affordable housing units, including others already built or on the books. The alternative was for construction of a total of 186 units, also including 62 income-restricted units, on about nine acres off Valley Road.