CRANFORD, NJ – Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-21) encouraged residents against high density housing developments to hire land use attorneys during Wednesday night’s forum.

Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr. and Commissioners Mary O’Connor and Andis Kalnins joined approximately 40 Cranford residents in the private room of Kilkenny House to discuss the issue, namely Hartz Mountain’s application to build 950 apartment units at 750 Walnut Avenue.

“We have chaos,” Bramnick said. “We have a situation where the courts can make that decision about what comes into Cranford and that’s my concern.”

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Bramnick mentioned his support for regional housing contributions, which he’s previously discussed, and said there should be a change to determine regional housing obligations instead of by municipality.

“Right now it’s only suburban towns that are really under the gun,” Bramnick said.

According to Bramnick, there was a bill that determined the percentage of housing that must be affordable if it is built, but not the amount of housing that must be built. The bill was supported by both parties and Governor Chris Christie, but was changed too much by the assembly and was never passed.

“When people make up all this nonsense about why it’s not getting done, it was getting done,” Bramnick said. “And then it fell apart.”

On a residential level, Bramnick encouraged those in attendance to start a ground-level movement to put pressure on their legislators.

“You need as groundswell of support for the concept of taking this out of the courts and making the legislature act,” he said. “Develop a relationship with people across New Jersey in areas that believe money should be moved into urban centers, including people who live in urban centers, and make a grassroots movement across the state. The only thing elected officials are afraid of is you and their jobs.”

In Cranford, Bramnick said those against Hartz Mountain need to band together, hire a land use attorney and discuss their options. The governing body cannot be too involved, Bramnick said, because they may become the arbiters of the situation.

“Without a land use attorney who’s competent, I couldn’t tell you what would happen” he said. “You can hire one who can meet with everybody, tell you the options and what you can present to the governing boards. If you don’t do that, that is a mistake.”

The majority of resident questions centered around a land use attorney, which Bramnick said is absolutely essential so a Union County judge will look at the objections and consider the points the objectors made. It cannot be done by just residents, he said.

“The more you brainstorm, the more lawyer power you have, the most earnest you are, the better you will be,” Bramnick said.

Later on, Bramnick reminded residents that they are only in the beginning stages.

“Don’t panic yet,” he said. “There’s been no decision and it’s possible that there’s negotiations going on. Before the planning board holds a vote, there will be a time for the public to speak. That’s when you need to speak consistent with legal counsel’s direction and suggestions.”

Lastly, Bramnick reminded residents that he is a stand-up comedian and will perform in New Brunswick next month.

“Is that true?” a resident asked amidst laughter and disbelief.

“You have to have some fun if you’re in Trenton,” he joked.