Chatham Township's amended Affordable Housing plan and implementation schedule will be considered for preliminary approval in Superior Court on September 17, 2020.
The date for the Fairness and Preliminary Compliance Hearing was set during a case management conference on Monday, July 27, 2020 when the Township's amended Affordable Housing Settlement Agreement was supported by the Fair Share Housing Center which represents the interests of future low-income residents, and by the special master who advises the Superior Court on low-income housing matters.
“Although the amended Settlement Agreement and the timetable to implement it must still be accepted by Superior Court Judge Michael C. Gaus, it is a very significant step for the Township to win the support of FSHC and the special master,” said Mayor Michael Kelly. “We sincerely thank Bassam Gergi of FSHC and Special Master Brian Slaugh for their support in recognizing that this amended plan is in the best interests of all current and future residents of Chatham Township, regardless of their neighborhood or income levels.”
The amended Settlement Agreement will move the Township's site for at least 59 units of Affordable Housing from 482-490 River Road to 522 Southern Boulevard, across from the Hickory Square Shopping Center. The amended agreement will also move the Township's proposed group home sites from 587 Fairmount Avenue and 476 Southern Boulevard, to adjoining sites at 482 and 490 River Road, pending approval by the N.J. Department of Health. A third group home will be located on Hillside Avenue across from the future Dixiedale Townhomes.
The amended Settlement Agreement also includes an implementation schedule which calls for a strict timetable of actions by the Township Committee and Planning Board, and the threat of penalties if the schedule is not met. The key actions on the implementation plan include adoption of an amended Housing Element and Fair Share Plan as part of the Township's Master Plan, which the Planning Board approved on July 20, 2020 and the Township Committee endorsed on July 23, 2020. The amended HE&FSP includes the new Affordable Housing and group home sites included in the amended Settlement Agreement.
Moving forward, the implementation plan requires:
Aug. 11, 2020. The Township is scheduled to receive an appraisal to help determine the fair market value of 522 Southern Boulevard.
Aug. 17, 2020. The Planning Board will conduct a public hearing on the preliminary investigation of 522 Southern Boulevard as an area in need of redevelopment, including the use of condemnation if necessary. The board will consider a resolution to send its findings to the Township Committee.
Sept. 17, 2020. Superior Court Judge Gaus will hold a Fairness and Preliminary Compliance Hearing to determine if the amended settlement is fair, and if the Township is on schedule toward meeting its Affordable Housing obligations.
December, 2020. The Township and FSHC will request a Final Compliance Hearing before the end of the year. If Judge Gaus determines the Township is in compliance with all its obligations, including acquisition or good faith progress toward acquisition of 522 Southern Boulevard, he is expected to certify the Township's Round 3 Affordable Housing plans through July 1, 2025.
If at the Final Compliance Hearing Judge Gaus determines the Township is not proceeding “with good faith and with urgent speed,” then according to the language in the amended Settlement Agreement: “Chatham Township's immunity from builder's remedy zoning suits shall immediately terminate and any developer shall be entitled to bring suit in order to help meet the unfulfilled obligation.”
The agreement also requires the Township to pay FSHC $41,000 for the additional time and expense to negotiate the second amended Settlement Agreement adopted on March 12, 2020, and what is now the third amendment adopted on July 23, 2020.
Note. The complete Settlement Agreement which covers the history of Affordable Housing actions in Chatham Township, and the detailed implementation schedule are posted on the Affordable Housing page of the Chatham Township web site at chathamtownship-nj-gov.