Government

Montville Township Discusses Affordable Housing Lawsuit and Recommendations

Fred Semrau, Montville Township municipal attorney, and Joseph Burgis, Montville Township planner and consultant, discuss the new Fair Share Housing recommendations and lawsuit Credits: Gail Bottone

MONTVILLE, NJ - The Montville Township Committee had a special meeting on Tuesday, May 23 to inform and update residents about the laws and requirements of the new Fair Share Housing recommendations and lawsuit.

Econsult Solutions, Inc., a Philadelphia consulting firm, was hired by over 300 municipalities, including Montville Township, to develop affordable housing requirements and to testify during the fair share phase of the affordable housing case. The municipalities will share the cost of Econsult’s services.

Joseph Burgis, Montville Township planner and consultant, and Fred Semrau, Montville Township municipal attorney, spoke to the public explaining the numbers recommended by Econsult and the Kinsey Report, prepared by David Kinsey on behalf of the Fair Share Housing Center, affordable housing advocates.

Sign Up for E-News

Montville Township Mayor James Sandham said, “A striking difference was noted between the two studies.” An explanation is as follows: From the years 1999-2025, Econsult proposed an additional housing need number of 173. The Kinsey/Fair Share Housing Center proposed an additional housing need of 1,361. Sandham commented that the township is comfortable with the Econsult figure but sees the second figure as too high.

When all is said and done, Burgis and Semrau see the final figure as being somewhere in between.

The 1,361 figure means that builders would have to put up about 6,800 new units to get 20 percent of the units that would be required for affordable units.

To meet these figures, Sandham said that Montville Township would almost double in size.

Sandham explained, “A court case was initiated by the Fair Share Housing Center against Montville Township. Several developers have entered the case as ‘interveners’ along with Fair Share.”

“If Montville Township does not settle, and the court rules against the township, the court would then be responsible for the land use/zoning for the developments contemplated by the interveners,” said Sandham.

This would allow the court to take the power away from the township and usurp the power for itself, allowing the court to make all the decisions. Sandham said that the township does not want the court to dictate the use of property, size and scope of projects and number of affordable units a developer can build.

Tom Mazzaccaro, former director of Montville Township Department of Public Works, who was involved in similar proceedings in 1984, said the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a previous state agency that oversaw NJ affordable housing, decided on the numbers in 1984, but Montville Township was allowed to choose where the building would take place.

Mazzaccaro also said back in the 1980s Mahwah protested too much, and COAH took complete control of affordable housing in their community.

Burgis explained that Montville Township has been proactive and has kept up with providing affordable housing even though the state did not require it for years. Using the Econsult figure, Montville Township has provided affordable housing over the current (COAH Round 2) required limit.

Burgis and Semrau believe that Montville Township is in the top 10 percent of municipalities that have fulfilled reasonable requirements under COAH rules.

Because Montville Township is a desirable location for building, four interveners are coming forward in court. One represents GI Auto, another one for the Bayer property off of Changebridge Road, and two smaller properties.

Such trials can take up to five months or more, making the cost very expensive for the township. Sandham wants the residents to know that the Committee will be making very important and hard decisions.

As stated by Sandham, “The upside is that the court rules in our favor, and we continue with our current plans and thinking. The downside risk is far greater. If the court rules that a larger requirement exists, the court’s perspective then shifts to how can the intervener’s projects satisfy the higher need. In other words, the court’s view may be to get as many affordable units from those projects.

For example, if a proposed project had 200 units with 15 percent affordable housing units (30), the court and the intervener could agree to build 300 units with 20 percent affordable units (60). The court wins with more affordable units. The intervener wins with more units on the same property, and the township loses as we have a larger development with more affordable units than we would have allowed under local zoning.”

To complicate matters even more, there are two bills in the state government proposing to put a freeze on all of this. The first bill would freeze affordable housing litigation through the end of the year, and the second bill would set up a commission to study the issue.

Background information: There have been changes to the state’s handling of affordable housing laws by the state Supreme Court after Governor Chris Christie’s administration repeatedly failed to comply with an order to establish a new set of guidelines. The NJ Supreme Court voted 6-0 to give the lower courts the responsibility on deciding on a case-by-case basis how many homes should be made available to low and moderate income residents in towns across the state. The ruling will allow developers and low to moderate income residents to go to court to challenge any municipality that does not have a fair share of affordable housing, and it also will allow municipalities to defend their compliance with the law.

COAH is no longer in charge of deciding the number of homes each town must make available after missing two deadlines to write new quotas. The courts are now responsible for each municipality. Towns were required to file in court by July 8, 2015 how they plan to meet their affordable housing obligation.

In 1983, the state Supreme Court ruled that municipalities must provide a “fair share” of affordable housing for low to moderate income residents. State lawmakers created COAH, to regulate the number of units each town should provide. These quotas expired in 1999, and since then, there have been no guidelines on how many units to build each year.

Sandham added, “The Kinsey Report appears to include wetlands in their calculations of land available when determining the amount of affordable housing required. Montville has such property.”

Another issue is something called “builder’s remedy.” Since 1983, the courts have allowed builders to sue towns that have no plan to comply with the state Supreme Court's 1975 decision that requires each town to provide its "fair share" of low-to moderate-income housing. The builder's remedy suits are used by developers to construct housing with higher density than would be allowed under local zoning laws by including units for residents of low and moderate income. In the past, such suits targeted mostly North Jersey towns. The township does not want to be involved in such costly law suits.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Like

Sign Up for E-News

Montville

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_de9a05566999ea9379e5_img_0325

Mon, September 25, 4:00 PM

Montville Reformed Church, Montville

Mentor Training for Pathways

Giving Back

Carousel_image_6b2c5316942f05ddd06a_img_5625

Mon, September 25, 7:00 PM

Montville Township Public Library, Montville

Teen Chess Club @Montville Twp Public Library

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_e8857904e656b4ad0796_img_0358

Mon, September 25, 7:00 PM

Montville Township High School, Montville

Teenage Depression Presentation - Remembering T.J.

Education

Carousel_image_94cda0a3b735cb55ed7a_img_5625

Wed, September 27, 4:00 PM

Montville Township Public Library, Montville

Teen Yo-Yo Class @Montville Twp Public Library

Arts & Entertainment

Help Educate At Risk Teens (HEART) Fundraiser for Morris County Youth Wellness Summit

September 18, 2017

Hi, my name is Veronica Tullo and I am the current International United Miss Junior Teen 2017.  Last year I chose as my platform the cause of teen suicide and depression awareness because this issue has affected so many of my friends and people I love.  Since then I have been working closely with The Society for the Prevention of Teen ...

TowacoFest Today

September 23, 2017

MONTVILLE, NJ – Today promises to be a beautiful summer-style day, so why not come out to the Towaco train station to enjoy TowacoFest? The annual street fair begins at 10:00 a.m. and runs until 5:00 p.m.

The Towaco Civic Association promises food, shopping, and fun for the kids, plus this year the festival will include a beer and wine garden, with Oktoberfest beers, IPAs, pumpkin ...

9/11 Commemorated in Montville Township

September 12, 2017

MONTVILLE, NJ – Montville Township residents gathered for a somber 16th anniversary remembrance of the six residents lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the two residents lost in the Pan Am flight 103 terrorist attack in Lockerbie, Scotland.

But former VFW Post 5481 Commander Frank Warholic also wanted to make it clear that the heroes should also be remembered. He called the group ...

Morris Essex Tuesday Senior Softball (METSS) League Holds Ninth Annual BBQ

September 15, 2017

RANDOLPH, NJ- The Morris Essex Tuesday Senior Softball (METSS) League recently held its ninth annual barbecue in Randolph.  Over 200 players participated in the morning round robin tournament and then joined their fellow athletes at Brundage Park to enjoy the end-of-season picnic.  Food was provided by the Randolph Diner and beverages by High-Grade Beverage ...

Holmdel Mourns Tragic Death of High School Junior Who Collapsed During Lacrosse Game

September 19, 2017

HOLMDEL, NJ — A GoFundMe page has been launched to support the family of Jack Dowd, the 16-year-old who died after collapsing at a lacrosse game at Rutgers University.

The Holmdel High School junior and varsity lacrosse player collapsed on Sept. 17 on the field during a scrimmage at the New Brunswick-based university. According to a Rutgers spokesperson, emergency services ...

Montville Township Public Library Announces English Language Learner Classes

September 24, 2017

MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Public Library announces its English Language Learner (ELL) classes will begin Wednesday, Oct. 4, and continue through Dec. 22 at two levels:

Advanced (classes meet twice weekly) Wednesday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Intermediate (classes meet twice weekly) Wednesday and Friday 12:15 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

The classes are ...

Columns

JCP&L Provide Support Across the Companies Service Area

JCP&L linemen and support personnel are among a large group of linemen, damage accessors, electrical contractors, forestry crews and support personnel from FirstEnergy Corp. utilities  that have mobilized to help utilities in Florida with restoration efforts as a result of Hurricane Irma.

Open House on Sunday by Century 21 The Crossing

MONTVILLE, NJ - Century 21 The Crossing is having the following open house on Sunday, Sept. 24:

165 Kingsland Rd, Boonton Township from 1 - 4 p.m. 

Sam Shepard's 'Simpatico' takes off

Sam Shepard’s “Simpatico” has a forceful workout at McCarter Theatre.

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, NJ – If you’re at all familiar with the works of Sam Shepard, you know that he writes about gritty, unforgiving characters in what appear to be hopeless situations.

In “Simpatico,” we learn that Vinnie and Carter are former partners in a race horse ...

Pet Corner