ROXBURY, NJ — Telling dozens of unhappy residents it was making the best of a bad situation, the Roxbury Mayor and Council on Tuesday approved several zoning amendments related to affordable housing.
The most controversial of the new zones is one that allows for the creation of 175 units of senior housing at the corner of Hillside Avenue and Route 10 in Succasunna, but residents near other rezoned tracts also spoke out at the meeting.
Conducted in remote fashion, the meeting saw the council pelted with the most extensive criticism since the days, several years ago, when it faced angry constituents complaining about noxious fumes coming from the former Fenimore Landfill. Most Roxbury council meetings are over in less than an hour; this week’s lasted more than three.
The ordinances all received unanimous, albeit reluctant, approval from the council which stressed that — despite being required to take public comment about the actions — it had no choice. Roxbury Township Attorney Anthony Bucco explained that the zoning amendments were stipulated by a court settlement related to the township meeting its state-imposed affordable housing numbers.
The most heavily opposed new zone involves an 8-acre Succasunna tract formerly called the Beeman Estate but now called the Porfido site. As stipulated in the court order, the site was rezoned to allow for an “Affordable Senior Citizen Residence” with up to 175 units.
The council was bombarded by complaints from people living near the site, with several residents asserting the council members should “be ashamed” of themselves. They contended a senior housing complex on the now vacant site will ruin their quiet, residential neighborhood.
Several times during the meeting, Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo assured residents he was empathetic. “I understand … No one on this council chose to do this. This is our obligation.”
Bucco explained the council’s predicament: If it did not vote in favor of the new zone, the likely result would be a trial, one where Roxbury would probably end up being forced to allow even higher-density housing on the tract.
“The worse thing we could do tonight is vote no,” stressed Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee. “We’d be hurting you (residents) more than you could ever imagine.”
The council noted that, despite the court settlement allowing the senior complex, site owner Porfido/Roseman Associates has not filed an application with the township Planning Board to build anything.
Although the Porfido tract drew the most public opposition, several of the other affordable housing-friendly zone changes approved at the meeting also drew expressions of concern from residents. There was strong opposition to the rezoning of 14 acres on Hercules Road in Kenvil and the rezoning of about 60 acres off Route 206 and Mountain Road in Ledgewood.
Council members and Bucco said township officials did their best to find sites suitable for rezoning to comply with the affordable housing dictates. They said the biggest piece of open land in Roxbury — the site of the former Hercules Powder Works explosives manufacturing complex — is riddled with environmental problems and could not be included in the rezoning effort.
Roxbury is required to have 841 units of housing deemed affordable. It currently has about 370 units, Bucco said.
Among the other sites subject to zone changes for affordable housing are:
- Block 6802, Lot 9, about 31 acres off of Berkshire Valley Road in Kenvil known as the Policastro tract
- Block 9402, Lot 7, about 16 acres off of Route 46 in Ledgewood known as the Southwinds tract
- Block 9603, Lots 3 and 4, about six acres on Route 46 in Ledgewood known as part of Woodmont
- Block 9302, Lot 4, about 18 acres off Route 46 in Ledgewood known as Kingtown
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