CHATHAM, NJ - After hearing the developer's "conceptual" plan to build 62 affordable housing units on River Road, the Chatham Township Committee heard from residents who challenged the merits of the plan during a virtual meeting that lasted nearly six hours on Thursday.

The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and ended at 11:24 p.m. No action was taken on the River Road site, but a public hearing on the overall affordable housing agreement could be voted on by the Chatham Township Planning Board on Monday.

Joe Del Duca, the affordable housing representative for the Walters Group developers, is proposing a three-story building (which could look like 4 stories with architectural design included) in his conceptual plan. Del Duca said the 62 units would cause less than a 2 percent increase in traffic on River Road.

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Del Duca also stressed the importance of applying for a 9 percent tax credit in 2021, which would greatly reduce the cost to Chatham Township taxpayers by an estimated amount of $7 or $8 million. Without a 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), the 62 affordable housing units would cost 2 1/2 times more "to complete the development."

When residents asked for the cost of the project, Chatham Township Administrator Robert Hoffmann said that it was too early in the planning stage to give a figure (see video below).

Del Duca also noted that there were 23 "perfect score" applications for LIHTC and only six municipalities received the 9 percent tax credit. The snag in Chatham Township's plan is that it won't be able to achieve a perfect score because of the location. There are no sidewalks, public transportation or amenities near enough to the proposed River Road site to meet the criteria needed for the LIHTC.

Vince Ferrito, a resident of River Road, spoke during public commentary and said that the presentation by the developer only backed up his contention that the River Road site is "not in the best interest of anyone," least of all the future residents. Ferrito said a site near the Hickory Square Shopping Center would not only be flat land, but would be within walking distance of amenities.

There is no public transportation that runs through Chatham Township and Mayor Michael Kelly said that one option would be a current route on Springfield Avenue that could possibly stop within a half-mile of the River Road complex (see video below). He said that at this time, nothing has been discussed on the subject.

Residents also spoke up about the damage that will be done to the wildlife ecosystem and the often-stated contention that the town's Master Plan specifically prohibits development on steep slopes such as River Road.

Deputy Mayor Tracy Ness said she didn't disagree with sentiments by the public that River Road is not the most suitable site, but said the upside is that it's the only property the township has under control at this time.

Ness said that Chatham Township has conducted confidential negotiations with commercial properties in order to purchase 2 1/2 to 3 acres of land that would accommodate the units proposed for River Road. "There have been multiple discussions....we have been unsuccessful to date" (see video below).

The Chatham Township Planning Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing and possible vote at its meeting 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 15, on the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan, which includes the River Road development.  On the agenda isADOPTION OF THE HOUSING ELEMENT & FAIR SHARE PLAN (Formal action may be taken) Public hearing and resolution may be adopted or continued to the next meeting. Here is the link to the plan: https://www.chathamtownship-nj.gov/images/aff-housing/Chatham-draft-hefsp-for-6-15- 20-PB-hearing.pdf