BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council tabled an ordinance Monday to adopt a plan for the redevelopment of the Weyerhauser property, on East Main Street.
Resident John Kulak, of Ramsey Street, challenged the economic viability of the redevelopment plan because of its proposed rental units.
“There is an overabundance of housing that is uninhabited,” he said.
The plan includes 220 units, 40 percent of which will be one-bedroom.
In 2013, the council began a preliminary investigation into the Weyerhauser property to decide if it was an area in need of redevelopment. In 2014, the planning board introduced a redevelopment plan for the property.
As part of the redevelopment plan, the council is considering vacating a portion of Radel Avenue, which is in close proximity to Ramsey Street.
“I ask you to reconsider approving the proposal on its face,” Kulak said, “and vacating Radel Avenue because it’s a safety hazard.”
Councilman Matthew Moench said the property is currently zoned for high-density housing, but asked Kulak if he had any ideas for the redevelopment plan.
“If you were able to do what you wanted with the property, what would you do?” Moench asked.
Kulak suggested senior housing. Initial discussions about redeveloping the property were for it to be strictly age restricted housing, but changes in state mandates allowed the developer to request it be non-age-restricted.
“There is no longer an option for senior housing,” council president Howard Norgalis said. “I think we’d all like to see private homes in there, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen.”
Kulak said he was concerned about the long-term affects that the redevelopment plan would have on the nearby residents.
“Developers themselves have a temporary interest in the community,” he said, “but the residents have a long term interest in the community.”
“The forces of the economy,” he added, “are going to end up diminishing the quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood.”
Part of the redevelopment plan includes accommodations for affordable housing based on COAH regulations. COAH was the state agency responsible for establishing and monitoring affordable housing, but recent state ruling has returned that power to local courts instead, which means requirements may change.
Bridgewater Township Attorney William Savo has said the elimination of COAH could change the township’s affordable housing requirement, and therefore the needs in this development.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso urged the council to reconsider the ordinance, particularly based on the issue of COAH units, at least until the new regulations are established and understood.
“The answer (of how many units we need) could come back and be zero,” he said.
Moench also expressed concerns about the market for the rental units, saying he wondered if there is a chance they would oversaturate the market.
“Will we hit a point where we approve more projects than we need in Bridgewater?” he asked. “We have several projects that have been raised for rental type units in Bridgewater.”
Moench cited the fact that there are already many rental units available in Somerville and other surrounding areas, and questioned whether the market would be better for single-family homes.
“Right now, we don’t have information one way or another,” he said.
The council tabled the ordinance on the redevelopment plan while more information is gathered, and will continue to discuss viable options for the Weyerhauser property.
For more on the redevelopment discussions, click here.