Clark Council Holds Special Meeting on Affordable Housing; Ordinances to be Discussed on May 15 Meeting

Municipal Planner Kevin O’Brien presented the Clark Township affordable housing plan to the township council on Monday, May 1, 2017 Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso addressed social media posts on the "Clark Neighbors" Facebook page. Bonaccorso said the site administrator has banned him from posting in the site. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Councilman Brian Toal said the master plan and affordable housing settlement is for the future of Clark. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Municipal planner Kevin O'Brien addresses the Clark Township council. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Councilman Al Barr asks groups interested in marching in the Memorial Day parade to contact him. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Councilman Frank Mazzarella Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
Members of the Clark township council and Township Clerk Edith Merkel listen to Kevin O'Brien's presentation. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
The Clark Township Master Plan circa 1955 Credits: Susan R. Bonnell
A page from the 1955 Clark Township master plan. Credits: Susan R. Bonnell

CLARK, NJ – The Clark Council unanimously approved two affordable housing resolutions at a special meeting Monday night in Council Chambers.  The resolutions were in line with that passed by the planning board last month.

The two resolutions passed were:

  • Endorsing the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan of the Master Plan as adopted by the Planning Board on April 6, 2017.
  • Adopting the Affirmative Fair Housing Market Plan in accordance with the Fair Housing Act and the New Jersey Uniform Housing Affordability Controls.

Township Planner Kevin O’Brien presented the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan after again reviewing the affordable housing history both in New Jersey and in Clark.  O’Brien reiterated that by working with the courts as ordered by the state, Clark can receive immunity from builders’ remedy through 2025.

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“Having immunity from lawsuits allows the township to guide and control development to where it fits and has the least impact on surrounding properties and the township as a whole,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said the township is providing several ways to meet the required number of affordable housing units. 

“We are going to provide opportunities for rental units; we are going to be rehabbing older homes; providing additional group homes for the developmentally disabled; we will be giving regional and veterans preferences for affordable housing renters," he said. "All of these programs have been found in the past as affordable mechanisms in providing affordable housing.”

“By passing the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan this evening, the Council will ensure a local control of affordable housing development and guide that development to appropriate locations that meet our ordinance for what development will look like,” he said.

Clark Business Administrator John Laezza said 50 percent of the affordable units can be allocated to current Clark residents.

The council and mayor took turns thanking O’Brien for explaining the situation that Clark and all other New Jersey towns find themselves in. They expressed their gratitude to the planning board, professionals and others who came together to prepare the plan.

Councilman Brian Toal held up a copy of the township's master plan from 1955 explaining that at the time, it was created for the Clark of today. 

“What we are doing now … is for the next generation,” said Toal.  “We have to build a Clark for the needs of now and for the future.”

Mayor Sal Bonaccorso also took the opportunity to reply to comments that were posted on the Clark Neighbors Facebook page regarding the affordable housing plan.  Bonaccorso read aloud a comment from a thread within that group from resident Marianne Disporto which said, “we are being told once again, that’s that, it’s a done deal and we must accept or face builders’ remedy lawsuit.”

Bonaccorso replied to this comment at Monday’s meeting, saying that the consequence of builders’ remedy is true.  He went on to read, “it is too late for residents to have input where affordable housing parcels go.”

“You’ve heard me say it more than once. I’m not going to tell you I’m the smartest guy in town.  I’m not going to tell you the council’s the smartest people in town,” replied Bonaccorso.  “But what I’m going to tell you in this affordable housing thing, we do know more.”

He said that when the Clark Commons was built, the township surveyed residents for their views which were taken into consideration during the build.

“As the mayor, I can tell you, the residents of Clark, we think this was the best possible thing we [could do] in a lousy situation.  Because we did not want this,” said Bonaccorso.

Councilman Al Barr added, “I just want to tell you, not as Councilman Barr, but as Al, that this mayor and council and all of the departments… sincerely care about this town.”

Public hearings on the following ordinances, which are set forth in the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan, will take place at the May 15, 2017 council meeting:

A resolution was also passed authorizing the mayor and township clerk to execute an agreement for the retail development located at 301 and 315 Central Avenue.

The council held its regular workshop meeting following the affordable housing meeting Monday evening.  Bonaccorso reminded the council that the new grass collection procedure begins this week.  He said residents who do not follow the procedure this week will be given a warning along with 10 biodegradable bags.  After this week, the grass will not be picked up unless it is in these bags.

He also congratulated Clark Police Department’s Detective Captain Patrick Grady who was awarded the Valor Recognition by the New Jersey State Law Enforcement Officers Association.  Grady will also be recognized by the Union County 200 Club later in May.  Grady was presented with the Combat Cross at the March Council Meeting for his work during an altercation this past September.

Barr is in the process of developing lineups for the Memorial Day Parade.  Anyone who is interested in being a part of the parade that day should return their forms ASAP. 

“If you are not a participant, I want you to be a spectator,” Barr said.

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