LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Little Falls is currently the only municipality in Passaic County to have gone through the process of obtaining a court judgment which stops any builders from suing the municipality on changing the zoning for the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations.
COAH, a state agency, was originally responsible for ensuring that all municipalities in New Jersey provide their fair share of low and moderate income housing. In October 2014 the COAH board failed to meet the deadline by the New Jersey Supreme Court for establishing new "Third Round" guidelines. The court ruled in March 2015 that the determination of affordable housing obligations would be administered by the court.
According to Charles Cuccia, business administrator, the township started early in order to complete the process.
"We filed in court and the court assigned a master, which is a professional in COAH development, who we worked with through the process to determine what our responsibility was with regard to affordable housing units to be planned in the township," Cuccia said. "What that entails is the state providing us with the original requirement and the township coming back to that."
Cuccia added that resolutions were required by the court in order for the township to fulfill its position of the judgment made by the court. Otherwise, builders can come into towns asking for more building density.
"Our density is pretty standard and because we went to the court and put forth a plan which made sense for the township. We can have properties developed within the requirements of COAH and still meet the current zoning requirements of the township," he explained.
Leslie London, former township attorney who is working on the COAH obligation for the township, gave a presentation at the at Feb. 27 council meeting.
"We had to first go to the Planning Board to review the plan, which we did about a month ago," London said during the meeting. "Then there was a series of ordinances and resolutions that the court said you needed to adopt. These ordinances and resolutions are pretty standard. They are typical of what other municipalities are adopting or have adopted as part of their settlements with the courts."
London also informed the council members that once the ordinances and resolutions are adopted, she would be able to go back to court and say the township has completely all the tasks required and the court will do a final judgment of compliance to the township.
"What this will do is protect the township of a period of 10 years - from 2015 through 2025. The township will be protected from a developer coming in and filing an action against the township. It's about building something you will be in control over what is being built over what the builder is telling you what they want."
A series of ordinances were passed during the evening, including the prior adopted Transit Village ordinance. London added that the only change being made it that it now ties into the affordable housing ordinance.
"These ordinances that I mentioned are standard and they are required by the court that you adopt. If they are not adopted then we will be in violation of the executive order and you don't want to jeopardize the judgment right now, which has approval subject to adopting the ordinances."
London also added that the municipal clerk's office currently has a copy of the affordable housing plan for public review.