ROXBURY, NJ — Some Succasunna residents are unhappy with the township’s designation of an 8-acre site on Hillside Avenue as a place where a new senior housing complex can be built.

The site, at the corner of Route 10 and Hillside Avenue was once called the Beeman Estate, and it is known for its stone wall along Hillside Avenue. It is now being called the “Porfido Site” and is a combination of Block 3602-9 and 3602.1.

It is one of seven Roxbury parcels in the process of having their zoning altered to specifically allow for low-income, moderate-income or senior citizen housing. The proposed zone change ordinances are expected to receive final approval by the Roxbury Mayor and Council on April 13 following a public hearing at that meeting.

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Hands Tied

The zone changes are specified in a court-approved settlement designed to bring Roxbury in compliance with its mandated number of “fair share” affordable housing units, said Roxbury Township Attorney Anthony Bucco. He stressed the settlement protects Roxbury from having developers, using what are called “builders’ remedies,” force the township to allow construction of high-density affordable housing structures on any available land.

“While the town council and municipality has a responsibility to provide reasonable opportunities for this low- to moderate-income housing to be built, it (the law) doesn’t necessarily require it be built,” Bucco said. “But you have to zone for the possibility someone could come in and build it, and it has to be reasonable.”

The proposed zone change for the Porfido tract designates it as an “Affordable Senior Citizen Residence” zone. The new “AH-4” zone allows the construction of a senior citizen housing community with up to 175 units.

The zone is designed specifically for the Porfido site in that it mentions the landmark stone wall. “To the extent practicable, the stone wall along Hillside Avenue shall be restored and maintained in its current location,” says the proposed ordinance.

The proposal drew criticism at the March 23 township council meeting from people living near the site. Some said it would ruin the character of the neighborhood. Some said it would clog roads with traffic.

“I moved out here not long ago,” said one resident. “I moved out here just for this: To get away from the city life … I do not want this.”

Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo, and others on the council, stressed that the proposed zone change should not be construed as approving the senior housing project. They noted that property owner Porfido/Roseman Associates, which could not be reached for comment, has not filed a project application with the township Planning Board, the panel that has control over most aspects of construction.

Could Be Worse

Porfido's site became part of Roxbury's affordable housing plan after Porfido filed an objection to the plan as an “intervenor,” Bucco said.

“When these cases are going on in courts, and towns are showing the judge where these potential developments could be and the zoning is in place to provide them … owners of property have the ability to file intervenor cases,” he explained. “They intervene in the case, and they can get standing to say, 'Look, you haven't provided enough affordable housing and our piece of property needs to be included in that process.'”

Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee agreed with the public concern about Roxbury being forced to zone property for affordable housing projects. “All these plans suck,” he said. “This one piece of property we probably would not have picked to be in our plan. If the owner of the property didn’t object to our plan, he probably would not be included in it at all. Because he was an objector, it tied our hands. He was going to get something.”

Rilee said Porfido, at one point, proposed erecting a 5-story structure and subsequently floated the idea of building “a Walgreens, a bank and another store” on the property. “While he is making out pretty well, Mr. Porfido did not get anywhere what he wanted,” Rilee said.

Among the other sites subject to zone changes for affordable housing are: 

  • Block 4002, Lot 5: A 14-acre tract on Hercules Road in Kenvil
  • Block 9292, Lots 1, 2 and 10, about 60 acres off Route 206 and Mountain Road in Ledgewood, known as Blue Vista
  • 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

DeFillippo urged people unhappy with the proposed new zones to speak up at the April 13 public hearing. However, doing so is unlikely to change the plan because the zone changes are part of the court-approved settlement.

Bucco said town officials spent a great deal of time choosing the parcels that will receive the affordable housing zoning. “The council is elected to represent the public," he said. “We just didn’t put a map of the township up and throw darts at it ... We put a lot of time into it. This has been going on for a number of years.”

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