CHATHAM, NJ - For the third time since November, the Chatham Township Committee announced a site for the development of 62 affordable housing units - naming the Charlie Brown's Fresh Grill at 522 Southern Boulevard as the latest target - at its regular meeting on Thursday evening.

Chatham Township Mayor Michael Kelly opened the meeting by explaining the negotiations had heated up for the purchase of the Charlie Brown's property, located across the street from ShopRite and the Hickory Square shopping center. The change in plans also calls for two Group Homes to be built on River Road, the former site for the 62 affordable housing units.

According to Kelly, "Township officials for more than eight months have been in confidential conversations with the family."

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"The Chatham Township Committee tonight is announcing a change in direction to replace its River Road affordable housing site with a site on Southern Boulevard across from Hickory Square Shopping Center," Kelly said. ""Over the past few weeks, there were discussions with offers exchanged. However, there was no agreement on the price. The formal appraisal is the next logical step in determining fair market value. We will give that appraisal to the family as part of the next round of discussions."

The Chatham Township Committee passed a resolution authorizing the obtaining of quotes on the appraisal of Charlie Brown's property.

Chatham Township has been under pressure from the courts to finalize its plans to implement the third-round element of affordable housing it had agreed to in December of 2018 in litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center.

According to Kelly, the Fair Share Housing Center and the court special master are in "general agreement" that the Charlie Brown's site is a much better site than the River Road site.

The amended plans for affordable housing must be approved by Superior Court Judge Michael C. Gaus. Kelly said the Fair Share Housing Center is "receptive" to continuing discussions of replacing River Road with the Charlie Brown's property. There have been discussions about the switch, but no agreement has yet been reached.

The changes in the affordable housing site plans will be discussed at a June 30 case management conference with Judge Gaus.

Mayor Kelly's remarks in announcing the switch from River Road to Charlie Brown's for 62 affordable housing units

In addition to the switch of the 62 affordable housing units from River Road to Charlie Brown's, the committee also eliminated its plans to build Group Homes for adults with special needs at 76 Southern Boulevard and 587 Fairmount Avenue. It also squashed its plans to spend $200,000 on improvements to property owned by the township on Gibbons Place, also a possible Group Home site.

The plan now is to build two ranch-style Group Homes on Lots 70 and 71 on River Road and a third Group Home on the subdivided property at 344 Hillside Avenue.

Kelly also outlined the switch in sites for three proposed Group Homes, eliminating sites on Southern Boulevard, Fairmount Avenue and Gibbons Place

Chatham Township tabled three bond ordinances up for adoption, which included $600,000 for the purchase of 76 Southern Boulevard; $575,000 for the purchase of 587 Fairmount Avenue and $200,000 for improvements to Gibbons Place. The $1,375,000 from those tabled purchases will go toward the purchase of Charlie Brown's.

"The financing from those bond ordinances will be redirected toward purchasing the Charlie Brown's property," Kelly said. "The intent of the township committee is to use 490 River Road, and the adjoining property already owned by the township, as sites for the two group homes previously planned for 587 Fairmount Avenue and 76 Southern Boulevard."

The third Group Home is slated for 344 Hillside Avenue, which Sterling-Sun Homes will donate to Chatham Township in exchange for the rezoning of four subdivided properties at the same location.

Chatham Township Deputy Mayor Tracy Ness expressed her relief that the committee can now talk about the behind-the-scenes negotiations

In other business, Chatham Township Administrator Robert Hoffmann announced a number of positive financial developments, including $467,253 the township has been reimbursed from Green Acres funding. Chatham Township had put out the money to purchase 6.6 acres on the "Snake Hill" portion of Southern Boulevard. The move to apply for the Green Acres funds was credited to resident Joe Basralian, the chair of the Open Space Committee, who notified Hoffmann of the availability of the funds. Hoffmann closed the deal with the application and the follow-up letters.

Hoffmann also noted the progress being made in its $308,000 PSEG 75/25 deal in which PSEG will pay $215,000 toward a number of energy-saving uprades such as LED lighting for the police department and new HVAC at the police department and municipal building, as well as new boilers for each building.

As of June 9th, Hoffmann said Chatham's newly joined energy procurement program has lowered the township's cost per kilowatt from 9.56 cents per kilowatt to 4.73, a projected savings of $48,000 per year ... Hoffmann also detailed savings of about $11,000 on a new copier supplier and an update on the development of Chatham Township's updated website. He asked residents to send in photos of Chatham Township to be posted on the new site.