Government

South Plainfield Borough Advances Affordable Housing Plan

693ca9f3e6ef9cee3cec_IMG_0849.jpg
Under the borough's new affordable housing plan mandated by the court, 1111 Durham Avenue will have to used for residential housing.
0a1cef8d98978e259b5d_IMG_0859.jpg
1111 Durham Avenue
0b4ddad382864ea9dcdf_IMG_0845.jpg
6f7c7cfbf87dcd479f95_IMG_0846.jpg
f56b8c2256711d68b2fd_IMG_0851.jpg
c9a0e0ccded08452384d_IMG_0855.jpg
6baea8d43eacf053fdf7_IMG_0866.jpg
63ae5590090f07c832c2_IMG_0870.jpg
5ad13c87c597431dfb08_IMG_0874.jpg
693ca9f3e6ef9cee3cec_IMG_0849.jpg

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The South Plainfield Borough Council, at a Jan. 23 meeting and under legal obligation from the Superior Court, unanimously authorized the approval of a proposed settlement agreement that will include the former Motorola property at 1111 Durham Avenue into its affordable housing plan. The settlement agreement is scheduled to be approved at the Feb. 6 council meeting.  

The 5-0 council vote – Councilman Robert Bengivenga, Jr. recused himself – was rendered just days after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that municipalities throughout the state must meet constitutional obligations and provide a fair share of low and moderate income housing options.

“No one is saying we do not believe there should be affordable housing throughout the state and throughout South Plainfield. It is the manner in which we, as a municipality, are being forced to do things,” said Mayor Matt Anesh during the meeting.

Sign Up for E-News

Earlier this month, the state Superior Court unanimously ruled that municipalities must meet affordable housing needs left unaddressed between 1999 and 2015, stating that during this 16-year period, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) failed to meet housing quotas for towns. Under the ruling, a total of 200,000 units are needed statewide, through rehab, conversion or new construction, by 2025.

“We hold that towns are constitutionally obligated to provide a realistic opportunity for their fair share of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households formed during the gap period and presently existing in New Jersey,” stated Justice Jaynee LaVecchia in the court’s unanimous 32-page decision.

Housing advocates such as the Fair Share Housing Center, feel the court ruling is ‘a victory for lower-income and minority families across New Jersey.’ “This ruling means that thousands of lower-income and minority families will be given the opportunity to live in safe neighborhoods, send their children to good schools, and work at jobs where they live instead of traveling hours commuting each day …” stated Colandus “Kelly” Francis, chairman of the Fair Share Housing Center’s Board of Directors and vice president of the Camden County Branch of the NAACP.

According to Anesh, the borough’s problem is not with having to provide affordable housing, but rather the way in which the town is being forced to do so.

“This isn’t something the town is taking lightly. I fundamentally disagree - not with providing affordable housing in South Plainfield but with the method the courts or the Council on Affordable Housing is mandating how we do it,” said Anesh.

The mayor stated that South Plainfield previously opposed residential development of the Durham Avenue property and, after multiple commercial parties expressed interest in the site, the borough did not include the property in its affordable housing plan, seeking a ‘Vacant Land Adjustment’ in meeting the affordable housing requirements.

Anesh said that South Plainfield was aggressively working to bring other commercial tenants to the site, but Motorola owner M&M Realty objected to the municipality’s plan. With the objection, M&M Realty was able to intervene in the affordable housing plan the borough was submitting to the court.

Special Court Master Betsy McKenzie, appointed to oversee the litigation, spoke at the Jan. 23 meeting. McKenzie stated that although the borough had been fully compliant in terms of meeting its previous affordable housing obligations, Durham Avenue must be included.

“The borough is legally obligated to include that site in the plan once it was know that it was available…” said McKenzie. “When you have a developer proposing inclusionary development and you are seeking a ‘Vacant Land Adjustment’ – and you had no choice but to do so in South Plainfield – you have no choice but to deal with that developer…”  

As it currently stands, a combination of condos and townhouses totaling a combined 410 units, with 20 percent designated as affordable housing, can be built on 27-acres at 1111 Durham Avenue; the approved amount is a negotiated decrease. The developer was proposing nearly 750 units for the site.

“We’ve spent a great deal of time negotiating with the two developers to try to maximize the percentage of affordable housing, which ultimately reduces the development on those properties as necessary to meet the town’s obligations,” said Steven Kunzman, the attorney handling the borough’s affordable housing plan.

According to McKenzie, had the borough taken the issue to court rather than agree to the settlement option, it would have, ‘ultimately ended up in a lawsuit trying to stand its ground.’ “The only way that a town can avoid having an interveners site in the plan is if they can meet the full obligation in some other way… you don't have that luxury because you are a town that is largely developed,” she said.

In addition to the former Motorola property, the development of the Harris Steel site at New Brunswick Avenue and Tyler Place is also included in the plan. That site was approved to be in the plan back in 2009.

According to the borough’s planner Stan Slachetka, South Plainfield has implemented and followed through many of its affordable housing plan obligations over the years. “Fundamentally, the plan you have in place is the plan that you have been implementing for a better part of a decade and, in some case, for over a decade,” said Slachetka.

Among them include rehabilitation of existing dwellings occupied by low- or moderate-income households that were below code and in need of modernization. Additionally, the borough has also fully satisfied its ‘prior round’ obligations through the establishment of completed projects such as Highland Manors, several group homes that address special needs obligations, and at other locations, including existing senior citizen housing and rental units. However, said Slachetka, the borough’s plan must now work to address an obligation to ‘prospective need.’

“That is the obligation now and which will continue through 2025 and that prospective need is being addressed in part through a couple of projects already in your plan,” he said, referencing the Celebrations construction, the Harris Steel property site - which has been in the plan for several years – and now, the Durham Avenue site.

Although municipalities such as South Plainfield can appeal the Superior Court ruling, doing so would be a lengthy and costly legal battle that, in the end, could result in more housing units being mandated.

Frustrated, Anesh blasted the process and the court’s decision.

“There is nothing we can do to prevent housing on 1111 Durham or prevent housing at the Harris Steel site. We can put up a big show, take it to court, spend $250,000 of our money that ultimately could go to improving our roads, our parks, or to public safety… and fight a case we know we will not win,” said Anesh, noting that in the end, the borough could ‘end up with more units, the same, or a little less’ but nothing that would prevent housing on Durham altogether.

“It is legally obligated to be included in the plan,” Anesh said. “We have a decision to make, like it or not, and that decision has to be the one that is best for the borough. The choice of this governing body isn’t a choice anyone wants to make [but] … there is no decision other than to settle.”

Council President Derryck White, chair of the borough’s Economic Development Committee, added, “To minimize impact on the borough – whether it be legally or in terms of infrastructure – this is the decision we are faced with. It is not a decision we want or one we are taking lightly. We, as a governing body, tried as best we could to minimize the impact on the community because we didn't want to put ourselves in a position where, moving forward, we would have more dire consequences.”

Realizing residents will have questions and concerns, Anesh said the intent of the borough is to ‘share information and facts as they become available; and to make the borough’s ‘professional experts available’ at upcoming council meetings and other venues. An electronic version of the affordable housing plan, once officially adopted, will be posted on the borough’s website.

“We intend to fully make what is going to happen in the new plan transparent as can be,” said Anesh. “I also encourage our professionals and our governing body to make themselves available and hold a town hall where the details can be provided and residents can ask the questions that they want.”

The South Plainfield Borough Council is expected to approve the affordable housing plan at the Feb. 6 meeting. 

TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at www.TAPinto.net/enews and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SouthPlainfieldTAP/ and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

Obituaries

South Plainfield – John T. Felz, Jr., 71, passed away at his home on Thursday, June 14, ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Letter from Scott Miller

June 18, 2018

Dear Editor,

There has been a lot of paving going around our town lately!  And I must say, it is such a fine sight to see all the Water Company work come to an end with this final phase of road resurfacing.  It should be noted that while the Water Company is in fact completing the work, a lot of thanks need to go out to Mayor Anesh, Council President Bengivenga and Councilman ...

Community Happenings

South Plainfield Jr. Baseball - Father's Day Classic

June 14, 2018

It's that time of year again for the SPJBC's 10th Annual Father's Day Classic Tournament.  Featuring a Round Robin format for 2018 that includes the following:

~Every team guaranteed at  least 4 games (weather permitting)

~Team Awards for 1st & 2nd Place Playoff Winners

~Maximum 5 Teams per age group

Saturday, Sunday & Monday June 16-18, ...

South Plainfield Elks Honor Students of the Month

June 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - On Tuesday, June 12, the South Plainfield Elks honored the winners of the Grant School Character Education Monthly Pillars.  The students and their families were treated to a pasta dinner cooked and served by the Elks Youth Activities Committee and the students were given Junior Citizen of the Month Certificates.

The winners were as follows: 

Caring – ...

Holy Savior Academy’s Championship Cheerleaders Seek Funds for New Equipment

June 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The Holy Savior Academy Cheerleading Squad has kicked off a fundraiser to generate $5,500 for the purchase of much-needed equipment, such as new tumble mats, sound equipment, and more for the award-winning squad.

“The group of twelve girls range from 1st through 4th grades,” said parent Marybeth Parache, who is heading up efforts to raise funds.  ...

Plainfields' UNICO Participates in Student Exchange with Italian High School

June 18, 2018

Two students from the South Plainfield High School Italian Language Class were recently sponsored by Plainfield's UNICO & the Gian Maria Mazzola Foundation of Italy to attend the Liceo Betty Ambiveri (High School) in Presezzo, Italy from May 26 to June 3, 2018.  Gian Maria Mazzola was a member of a runners club from Italy who ran in several NY Marathons and his club was hosted in ...

Road Closures - June 14, 2018

Today's road closures in South Plainfield due to road resurfacing -

Old Hamilton Blvd, Church Street and South Plainfield Avenue between Front Street and Old Hamilton Blvd.

New Market between Pitt Street and Hancock Street will be down to one lane most of the day for resurfacing. Expect minor delays. (Nixle A7BQY)

Upcoming Events

Fri, June 22, 7:30 PM

Crossroads, Garwood

Benefit Concert

Giving Back

Carousel_image_9a7d6e599775b1145bde_sparc_radio_logo_final_083115

Sat, June 23, 2:00 PM

South Plainfield

SPARC Reaching Out

Carousel_image_f442011d67fefc1cb5a2_spb-4937_newsletter_june_23

Sat, June 23, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Southern Maryland Blue ...

Carousel_image_0261cd4c5700fd63e54b_spb-4937_newsletter_june_24

Sun, June 24, 1:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. Southern Maryland Blue ...

Columns

Weinberg, Diegnan Bill to Establish University-Based Consortium on Media Innovation Advances

TRENTON –A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Patrick Diegnan that would establish a state university-based consortium to advance research in the field of media and technology was passed from the Senate Higher Education Committee today.

“The state’s traditional newspaper market has been upended by changes in ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

Bookmarks

The South Plainfield Public Library will be open this Sunday, June 24 from 1:30 PM – 5 PM.  This is the last Sunday the library will be open until September.  During July and August, the library will be closed on Sundays, but the rest of the hours during the week will remain the same.

Come join us Monday, June 25 at 6:30 PM for Monday Night Movies.  The selection this week ...

Suburban Woman’s Club Ends Its Year with a Big Banquet

Our country has a long and rich history of service clubs contributing to the growth of their communities but there have been signs in the past two decades that interest in these groups is waning.  Not so at Suburban Woman’s Club of South Plainfield.  Thanks to the efforts of Membership Chair Grace Bertucci, this past year seven new members joined this relatively small group of ...

Press Releases

Plainfields' UNICO Honors Area High School Students With Scholarships

June 16, 2018

At their annual Scholarship Awards Banquet on May 23, 2018, The Plainfields' Chapter of UNICO National honored 6 area high school seniors with scholarship grants of $1,000 each.  The high schools represented in this prestigious yearly scholarship program  South Plainfield, J.P. Stevens, Bishop Ahr, Piscataway, and  Middlesex High Schools. The recipients were the following ...

Cool Ways to Save Money This Summer

As the summer temperatures rise, home cooling costs rise as well. But there are ways to help save money without sweating the heat:

To increase your cooling system’s efficiency by as much as 20%, get it checked out for summer.  A technician will clean the condenser, make sure you have the optimal amount of refrigerant, and ensure the airflow over the coil is ...