MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – The council delivered a welcomed “curveball” to residents who had come to the Tuesday, Sep. 19 council meeting to oppose the planned expansion of the Barnes Tract Redevelopment area. After the discussion, the council unanimously approved the revised resolution regarding the expansion.

Councilman Keith Turner explained that the subcommittee had met prior to the council meeting and, based on community feedback, the subcommittee is recommending that only lot 13 be included in the Barnes Tract Redevelopment area expansion plan. The subcommittee recommended that lot 17 – which had been included in the Planning Board’s recommendation – be omitted from the expansion. “Mayor and the council are here to listen to residents,” he said.

The news was met by silence by the stunned audience, who were prepared to hear that both lot 13 and 17 be included in the expansion plan. With the encouragement of Mayor Paul Mirabelli several residents took the microphone to express their concerns regarding increased traffic congestion and potential drainage issues due to the planned development. However, some residents said they were pleased with the revision.

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“Months of hard work” preceded the committee recommendation. It was a prime example of the mayor, council and residents working together, Councilwoman Deanne Andre stated. Including both the lots 13 and 17 in the redevelopment plan “sounded like a good idea;” however, after listening to residents it turned out not to be such a good idea after all, Councilman Robert Messler said.

The affordable housing debate has been going on for decades. It began with a New Jersey Supreme Court case regarding Mount Laurel which became a benchmark decision. The court ruled that every municipality has an obligation to provide its fair share of affordable housing. Turner explained that Mountainside is required to allocate 123 affordable housing units based on the Mount Laurel Doctrine. “Mountainside is very lucky” as the court mandated zoning requires only six units per acre here while other nearby municipalities have been dealt with much higher density requirements. He noted that all New Jersey municipalities are force fed with the new affordable housing mandates.

The Barnes Tract development will have a minimum of 32 units of which six will be affordable. The rest of the units are priced based on market value. The development also has a commercial component. The borough has approved the sale price of the five acre parcel for $3.1 million to Pop Realty. Turner explained that this agreement gives the borough more control over the project. “We want it to fit in.”

The next step is for the planning board to formulate an ordinance for the development and submit it for council approval. This process may take up to 90 days. After the ordinance is approved the developer will submit its plans to the planning board. Mirabelli expects the project to be shovel ready in the spring.