HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - The Borough of Hasbrouck Heights Town Council, on a 4-2 vote, passed a controversial series of ordinances that will allow the town to become compliant with its obligations under The Fair Housing Act. The Council split down party lines as Democrats Steven Reyngoudt and Christoper Hillmann voted against approving the ordinances.
“Let me make one thing clear,” said Hasbrouck Heights Mayor Jack DeLorenzo to the audience, most of whom were in attendance to voice their opposition to the measure. “This is not something we want to do. This is something that we are being told by the courts, that we have to do.”
Before the Mayor and Council opened the discussion up to the public for discussion, Hasbrouck Heights attorney in the matter, Wendy Rubinstein, provided a brief history of the issue, which dates back to the original Mount Laurel Decision, through the Coalition On Affordable Housing, which was shut down by the New Jersey State Supreme Court, giving the authority to regulate housing back to courts.
She also stated the proposal to re-zone the wooded area of Longview Avenue for townhouses, of which four will be unrestricted family affordable housing, was selected by the planner, appointed by the court. The town did not choose the property, as it met what it deemed a realistic plan to get Hasbrouck Heights the affordable units it needed to be able to the court requesting signoff on judgement that would protect Hasbrouck Heights from a builder coming in filing a lawsuit, and winning a “builder’s remedy” lawsuit.
It was pointed out by Rubinstein and the Mayor that a “Builder’s Remedy Lawsuit” would open all of Hasbrouck Heights up to issues. By getting their master plan to be signed off by a judge would protect Hasbrouck Heights from being sued by developer’s wishing to build in the borough.
They also pointed out some facts prior to opening the session up to public discussion, facts that were repeated during the discussions.
Hasbrouck Heights was sued, and lost concerning not having met its quota of Affordable Housing. As a result of the judgement, the court ordered that Hasbrouck Heights had to pay the plaintiffs court costs, as well as their own, as well as the planner who determined what our share of affordable housing should be. This was the theme of the night for DeLorenzo, that people from South Jersey (Senate President Stephen Sweeney is from south Jersey) and Trenton should not be telling Hasbrouck Heights how to zone its town.
That by passing these ordinances, the town would still have control how the development of the property would occur. The town would not be spending a penny to assist any developer on any proposed development of the property. The property itself has many obstacles that would have to be overcome before the property could be built on.
Several residents spoke during the public portion of the debate (which will be covered in further detail tomorrow.) raising their concerns about the impact on their neighborhood, as well as the town. Loss of house value was a principal concern of many who spoke.
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