RARITAN TWP., NJ – Officials approved a settlement yesterday that may resolve the township's “affordable” housing obligations.
As with most municipalities in New Jersey, the township is in court with the Fair Share Housing Center, a consequence of the state’s Council on Affordable Housing failure to enforce “affordable” housing requirements and a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling that then forced municipalities into court to settle the issues with the FSHC.
The terms approved by Township Committee at its regular meeting last night are subject to approval in Superior Court.
Officials would not provide the terms of the agreement until after the vote. Committeeman Gary Hazard was absent; the remaining members of the Committee approved the resolution unanimously and without discussion.
Committeeman Mike Mangin asked if there was an opportunity for comment, which Mayor Jeff Kuhl said wasn’t required “because it’s a resolution.”
Committee member Karen Gilbert said that everyone had an opportunity to comment on the draft for up to three minutes during the public comment section of the meeting. As she noted, Sharon Winnick had asked about the terms.
“But I still don’t have an answer,” Winnick told officials after the vote was held.
“The answer is we just adopted this resolution,” Gilbert said.
“But what is the agreement? That is the question,” Winnick said.
“It’s open to the public now. The agreement has been passed,” answered Mayor Jeff Kuhl.
Under the terms, the housing development that had been planned for the Dayton Road area near Carriage Gate has been removed. The Dayton Road proposal was controversial, in part because it had been included in the township’s Recreation and Open Space Inventory, and also because some claimed it was apparently habitat for bobcats, with one providing a photo claimed to be taken in the area.
Replacing the Dayton Road project is another site at 66 Junction Road, which would provide 100 units in a “municipally sponsored” project that would include only affordable housing. The pending agreement states that the township must provide proof of funding for the project – even if that includes borrowing the money – and that construction must begin with two years of the court approving the settlement terms.
Within 10 days of the court’s approval of the plan, the township will be required to “pay FSHC attorneys fees and costs” totaling $15,000.
The Junction Road project still leaves the township with an obligation to provide another 178 units of housing. Under the agreement, they would be distributed as follows: Enclave at Raritan Junction, 40 units; Raritan Town Square, 35 units; Village at Raritan Junction, 28 units; Group Home and Supportive Housing Program, 27 units; Raritan Junction, 21 units; Cedar Grove Shopping Center, 6 units. Another 21 units would be possible by extensions of expiring development controls.
Because the plan already has municipal approval, the only remaining opportunity for the public to address the plan with the hope of influencing it will be in Superior Court. The date for that hearing has not yet been set.