Editor's Note: Corrections in bold.
GLEN ROCK, NJ – For Glen Rock residents near 261 Rock Road and for those near 23 Kenmore Place, Wednesday evening was long and difficult. Nonetheless, the council, admitting their distress, approved the affordable housing settlement that will bring a total of 13 units to those locations.
The settlement, in the works more than four years in various forms, will include 261 Rock Road: 11 apartments, three stories, 17 parking spaces; and 23 Kenmore Place: 2 separate families living at the location.
Resident complaints were much like council concerns: high density on small lots, more burden to the school district (which legally could not be considered when looking at any location for affordable housing in the borough), traffic, and home devaluation.
Before the vote, the borough’s planner Ed Snieckus, spoke extensively on the background of the affordable housing laws and how and why the borough put together the current settlement agreement. He cited law, restrictions due to the various iterations of Mount Laurel court decisions requiring affordable housing in every New Jersey municipality, and discussed why the borough needed to move quickly or risk the requirement of even more densely packed parcels of land where there is open space or land for sale.
After public testimony that pushed the meeting to the three-hour mark, the Council voted in favor of the settlement, 4-yes and one abstention, Michelle Torpey.
“We have a constitutional obligation to move this forward,” Councilman Mike O’Hagan said. “I don’t like it one bit. I’ve sat up here for 15 years, I’ve seen COAH, I’ve seen it all. I disagree with the mayor who said I understand how you feel. I don’t understand how you feel sir, it’s not my house. I live on a street where the first mcmansion went up. I get it.”
“I’m not happy with this at all. We’re at a point where we can’t kick the can down the road anymore,” O’Hagan said.
Councilwoman Amy Martin she respected everyone who spoke. “I just hope the objections are about the apartment building and not the people going into it.”
Councilwoman Kristine Morieko said she remembered when a developer put a 35-foot building in her backyard.
“I have lived your shoes. My parents fought it and lost,” she said, referencing 1979. “Don’t for a moment think I don’t appreciate your concern.”
As a councilwoman, Morieko said she doesn’t “have the luxury of worrying about one street, I have to worrying about all the streets. That 393 units is scary.”
Councilwoman Arati Kreibich said the solution was “not ideal.”
“I believe whole-heartedly that affordable housing should be here. This is a whole concept. I struggled the most with 100 percent affordable housing, all in one place. I struggled while listening to all of you,” she said. “Looking at the settlement as a whole and thinking through all the aspects, I vote yes.”
Councilwoman Mary Barchetto expressed she and the council agonized over the decision and the plans.
“We live where we work. We have no nefarious intent, our intent was not to railroad you,” she said. “We’re frustrated at how delicate process was, and we railed against the confines of litigation of what we could and could not share. It’s our civic responsibility. It’s not an ideal solution, we’re trying to do what’s best for the town. I vote yes.”
Michelle Torpey, who abstained, said she had not heard enough in her nine weeks on the council.
“I hear your concerns. I have thought about it continuously since the last meeting. I was appointed only nine weeks ago. This has been going on for four years, and there are a lot of things I have not been privy to,” she said. “I apologize about the way you got the letter, that it was stuffed into people’s mailboxes. I really wish everyone could have seen this four years ago. I don’t have enough information to make a vote, I abstain.
The residents that spoke on the matter repeatedly said they were not opposed to affordable housing in and of itself, but rather they were opposed to it being so condensed, especially at 261 Rock Road where there will be an 11-unit apartment complex that is slated to be 100 percent affordable housing.
More public reaction to come.