MILLBURN, NJ - One of the most important issues facing Millburn and Short Hills over the next few years will be how we adjust our schools, infrastructure, traffic circulation, tax burden and quality of life to support the high density developments that continue to be approved by our current Township Committee. We offer new leadership and some innovative alternatives worth considering.
The NJ State Supreme Court has mandated that all towns provide affordable housing, and we agree. However, Millburn is an older, fully developed town with very little undeveloped land. A Housing and Fair Share Plan was developed in 2018, but, the current Township Committee missed the filing deadline. That disastrous mistake opened the door for developers, with court approval, to submit the high density developments, with some affordable housing, at Woodland Road in Short Hills, at the Wells Fargo property in Millburn and potentially on the NJ American Water property by the Mall.
If we allow developers to continue to drive the answer to Millburn’s affordable housing responsibility we will end up with an uncoordinated and overly dense result – apartment blocks randomly placed wherever developers could force them in and four regular market-rate apartments justified for every affordable unit. To fully meet our current affordable housing obligations, new construction would need to build over seven hundred apartments in Millburn.
The net result will be to transform Millburn into more of the feel of Hoboken or Jersey City. While these are fine places to live, they are not the same residential scale we sought when we chose Millburn to be our home. Millburn is predominantly a single-family residential community with only one thousand apartments among our seven thousand residences and our residents do not want that to substantially change.
Instead of new apartments, we should first look to innovative programs which address affordable housing without new construction. For example, Edison NJ created an economic incentive program to convert a percentage of existing apartments into affordable units. This would be a reasonably quick path to create a meaningful number of affordable units without placing a single brick.
Another way to create affordable units without new construction would be via ratable accessories. This idea worked in San Francisco where attic apartments, carriage houses, apartments over garages and other accessory units which would not normally meet zoning may receive variances if they are designated as affordable units. In Millburn, our two group homes for people with special needs could count towards our affordable housing objectives and at a 4:1 ratio that would remove the need for 40+ apartments – nearly equal to the entire project at the former Wells Fargo property.
As a last resort, the Town could team with non-profit developers to build less-dense developments with a higher percentage of affordable units.
Taken in total, these methods of creating affordable housing could completely satisfy our existing responsibility. Unlike new construction, these affordable units could be available relatively soon without having our community suffer decades of expensive lawsuits and delays.
We believe that seeking creative ways to quickly meet our affordable housing commitment, without overwhelming the town, is Common Sense leadership for Millburn / Short Hills.
Nicolas Volpicelli and Dr. Sujoy Menon are the Republican candidates for Millburn Township Committee.
Nic is an alumni of the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and an MBA. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and a Fellow at Lead New Jersey. Nic attained the partnership of the global strategy consulting firm Booz & Company. He lives in the Glenwood section of Millburn Township with his wife, Christa and three children.
Nic is also a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima, active with the Cub & BSA Scouts and is the President of the Racquets Club of Short Hills.
Dr. Sujoy Menon is an alumni of Rutgers University with a B.S. in Computer Science and Biochemistry. He received his MD from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ as well as an MBA from Cornell University. Dr. Menon is the Chief of Interventional Radiologist at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Sujoy lives in the Deerfield section of Millburn Township with his wife, Aditi and two children.