CHATHAM, NJ - Toward the conclusion of the nearly five-hour virtual meeting of the Chatham Township Planning Board, the chairman of the township's Open Space advisory board said that the plan to construct 62 affordable housing units on River Road Ridge made a "Mockery of the Township's Master Plan."

Chatham Township resident Joe Basralian, chairman of the Open Space advisory board for the last 10 years, was one of three witnesses to testify against the plan in the public hearing of the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan. Chatham Township has put forth the plan to meet its third round of affordable housing obligations that it agreed to in litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center.

A "conceptual" plan had been presented to the public at the June 11 Chatham Township Committee meeting.

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In a meeting that started at 7:31 p.m. Monday night and adjourned at 12:25 a.m. Tuesday, the Chatham Township Planning Board heard two expert witnesses hired by a group of 40 Chatham Township residents opposing the development of the 62 units on River Road.

The hearing on the adoption of the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan is being carried over to the Monday, July 6 meeting when a vote could be taken. 

After hearing from the three witnesses and their responses to questions, Steven K. Warner, planning board attorney, asked Francis J. Banisch III, the township planner and author of the June 20 Housing Element and Fair Share Plan if any of the testimony had changed his view. Each time he was asked following testimony Banisch said: "No."

Banisch said that he had not walked Lots 70 and 71, the sites proposed for the redevelopment nor had he received an environmental study in determining his recommendations.

Basralian contended that "we as a township have the authority to develop appropriate land in our township center commercial zone" and said he was strongly in favor of affordable housing in the appropriate area. See his power-point presentation to the planning board below.


Vince Ferrito, a resident of River Road, organized the hiring of professional planner Michael J. Pessolano and environmental expert Blaine Rothauser to give testimony on behalf of a group of 40 residents.

Pessolano estimated that the proposed 62-unit, three-story building would take up 142,000 square feet and that the paving for the switch-back driveway and parking would take up 85,200 square feet, which would be 14 times the driveway coverage of a typical house on River Road.

Pessolano, like Basralian, asserted that affordable housing is much better suited for an area near the Hickory Tree shopping area. See his comments in the video below.

Rothauser gave a 38-page power-point presentation on the ecosystem of River Road Ridge and the endangered species he said were spotted there. He also pointed out natural springs located inside the same area. He is the featured narrator in the video "Standing up for River Road Ridge" which can be seen below.

A video "The Wildlife of River Road" made by Chatham Township resident Naomi Boyd is also included in the material submitted to the planning board for consideration (see below).