CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham Township Committee decided to hand over the township municipal building to a developer, paving the way for the construction of a three-story building that will house 65 Affordable Housing units in a 4-1 vote taken at its meeting held Thursday night.
The revelation about the municipal building came in a power-point presentation by Chatham Township Administrator Robert Hoffmann, who also explained that major renovations were needed at the Chatham Township Police Department to comply with state mandates from the Corrections Department.
The designation of the municipal building at 58 Meyersville Rd. as a site designated for affordable housing is part of the settlement the Chatham Township Committee agreed to in 2018. The decision is the culmination of more than three years of litigation to comply with its state-mandated third round affordable housing obligation.
Chatham Township Committee members said they were unable to reveal details of the decision to the public prior to voting Thursday night because of the ongoing litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center.
The decision means that Chatham Township administrators will have to vacate the municipal building in 24 to 48 months. The township will retain use of the Mountainview School gym and the Senior Center, but both will be unavailable while the housing is under construction.
The developer will be seeking a grant to build the 65 affordable housing units and the township will be responsible for paying any "gap" difference, which has been estimated at between $2 and 4 million. Chatham Township is also committed to building nine more affordable housing units to meet its total 74-unit obligation.
Ironically, the committee bemoaned the fact that there were scarce amounts of municipal property on which to build the affordable housing while at the same time voting to give away the very building in which the governing body holds its meetings.
The committee, on the advice of attorney Albert E. Cruz, declined to name the other possible sites considered. Hoffmann said the list would be forthcoming after consultation with Cruz.
Committee member Karen Swartz, acknowledging that the township was painted into a corner with its affordable housing obligation, gave her reason for voting no to the move in the video below. Curt Ritter, Mayor Tayfun Selen, Mike Kelly and Tracy Ness all voted in favor of the move.
Mountainview resident Douglas Pitney strongly objected to the decision and asked the committee to delay its vote in order to consider other sites in the video below.
Committee member Tracy Ness said that the township has been negotiating the settlement since 2015 and that it was caught in a "perfect storm" with the decisions it had to make over the summer with the police department building. See her remarks in the video below.
Deputy Mayor Mike Kelly reasoned that the vote had to be taken Thursday night so that the committee could figure out what the move will cost the township. He noted in the video below that no facts will change before the next meeting when the decision would have to be made according to the court agreement.
Committee member Curt Ritter asserted in the video below that he was voting yes because an alternative decision could be made next year when newly elected members Stacey Ewald and Celeste Fondaco are sworn onto the committee.