Berkeley Heights School Board President Sees 120 Additional Students in Township Schools with Housing Developments Expected in Next Four Years

Columbia Middle School

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—Based on “mapping of current student data” and what is known about four projected condominium or apartment complexes that may be built in Berkeley Heights in the next four years, township board of education president Doug Reinstein believes the public school population will increase by 120 students.

The four possible areas of multifamily housing development are the current Connell Corporation commercial complex, the site of the former Berkeley Cinema, the site of the Berkeley Heights Kings Supermarket and Hamilton Street property currently owned by Little Flower Church, with whom the township has been discussing various development alternatives.

Reinstein discussed his findings during a presentation at Thursday’s board of education meeting.

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Mayor Robert Woodruff said the proposed developers of the Connell site are due to present “concept proposals” to the township council on Tuesday, August 15.

The mayor said the Connell developers apparently want to provide housing for Connell employees and other “Millenials” who probably will be interested in the flexibility to relocate from the township in a short time span.

He said the proposed complex probably would include less “high end” apartments that are not likely to attract families with children.

The Kings site, according to Woodruff, probably would be developed with  high end apartments, implying, perhaps that this development would be more attractive to families.

From what has been discussed so far about the Little Flower tract, that site would include “high end” townhouses available for purchase.

He noted that, currently, the township’s public schools have between 12 and 34 percent additional capacity for new students.

Today, Reinstein said, there are 11 multifamily housing complexes in Berkeley Heights.  Sixty two percent of the students living in those complexes who attend township public schools are going to either Governor Livingston High School or Columbia Middle School.

The remaining 38 per cent of public school students from those complexes attend the township’s elementary schools. 

He noted there is one student for every five condominiums.

Reinstein added that the proposed developments would be located in the current districts of the Thomas P. Hughes and William Woodruff Elementary Schools.

He noted the student enrollment figures would be updated as the developments are completed and families move in.

Responding to a question from board member Gerard Crisonino, Reinstein said the district would continue to “balance out” student locations based on it class size policies and need.

For example, he said, it would make sense that any students living in the proposed Connell development probably would attend Woodruff, although greater-than-expected increases in student enrollment from the area might cause the board to take another look at balancing student enrollment at each elementary school.

Woodruff said the township is afraid of approaching its “saturation point,” and hopes to enter an agreement next month with state court approval for a “judgement of repose” that would exempt Berkeley Heights from so-called “Builders’ Remedy Lawsuits” for 10 years.

The mayor added, of a possible 608 units that could be built in Berkeley Heights in four years about 20 percent could be required to be affordable housing.

In answer to a question from the audience, Reinstein said there currently was no arrangement or obligation that builders of proposed developments provide PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) to the school district, as they probably would agree to do with the township.

He added, however, that, should increases in student population cause increases in expenses “above and beyond” what is expected, the school board might consider negotiating with the township about some form of compensation.

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