WARREN, NJ - Discussion of Warren Township’s state imposed obligation to build affordable housing invokes lyrics from a popular song, “ They paved Paradise to put up a parking lot.” While not a parking lot, the number of new homes to be built according to a settlement agreement Warren Township is negotiating with Fair Share Housing Center, has been negotiated down to 1,048 new homes by 2025, including 362 affordable housing units, the Warren Township Committee shared at a Special Meeting on Monday. The vote on the settlement is set for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
The original number of affordable housing units suggested for this third round was 1,330, and over 5000 total units, “the Kinsey number,” by the Fair Share Housing Center. A revised number, “ the Jacobson number,” according to the formula used by State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson in the cases against Princeton Borough and West Windsor, would most likely be 5000 new homes including 986 affordable units, Warren Township Attorney Jeffrey Lehrer said. Instead, the negotiated settlement is 1048 new homes which is broken down to 362 affordable units and 686 market rate units.
For more on the Jacobson ruling:
No formal action was taken as Warren Township is still involved in ongoing litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center advocacy group. Lehrer provided an overview of the proposed settlement agreement, however, he said that since the agreement was still being negotiated and hadn’t been voted on, a draft could not be provided to the public. Absent a settlement, continuing the legal battle could most likely result in Warren losing its immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits, which, Lehrer said, in effect replaces local zoning regulations with the “wild west,” and would also be a case the township would most likely lose. If a settlement agreement is reached, all development is still subject to the approval of Warren’s Planning Board and, in some proposed locations, also the Somerset County Planning Board and the State Department of Transportation.
Lehrer was able to share that most of the development in the settlement agreement would be near the I-78 interchanges at Exit 36 and Exit 40.
The Planning Board has already granted site plan approval and State Superior Court Judge Thomas Miller has granted Warren Township’s motion for approval of the proposed 100% affordable family rental housing development on Lindbergh Avenue that is to be built by PIRHL Acquisitions, LLC. Miller is the judge responsible for the housing cases of 59 municipalities, of which all but 12 including Warren Township, have settled.
In addition, site plan approval has been given to a developer to build a 105-unit complex on Mount Bethel Road( 25 affordable) and two additional lots have been zoned to accommodate a total of up to 80 units. One, at the intersection of Mount Horeb Road and Mount Bethel Road, has been zoned to accommodate up to 36 total units( 12 affordable), and the other, at Flag Plaza on Mount Bethel Road, has been zoned to accommodate up to 44 total units( 20 affordable).
All of the previously approved affordable units count toward the settlement total of 362.
Lehrer said that other development that would be included in the settlement would be:
32 units on the I-78 side of Mountain Avenue across from Wagner Farm, all affordable and earmarked for individuals with special needs;
335 total units across from Warren Corporate Center at the I-78 exit 36 interchange on King George Road zoned for up to 107 luxury townhomes and 153 luxury rentals, as well as eight affordable units and 67 affordable rentals;
192 total units on the east side of Hillcrest Road between the I-78 exit 40 interchange and Emerson Lane, zoned for up to 144 units at market rate and 48 affordable units;
And 176 total units on the west side of Hillcrest Road, zoned for up to 132 rentals at market rate and 44 affordable rentals.
For how we got here and where we’re going see:
A list of completed or proposed projects for Somerset County is:
The Warren Township Committee held the Special Meeting to “encourage and receive public comment “ regarding the Township’s Affordable Housing obligation, and approximately 75 residents attended the meeting and many spoke.
Some residents, while not happy with being forced to build, applauded Warren’s negotiations and still others want Warren to continue to fight,” all the way to the Supreme Court,” if necessary to avoid changing the landscape of Warren Township. Warren resident Jolanta Maziarz, who is also a land use attorney and the Planning Board attorney in Long Hill Township, praised Warren’s proposed settlement.”Kudos, it’s brilliant,” she said. “ I can’t believe you’re getting two-for-one( the ratio).”
Regarding the concern over what the increased development will do to the character of Warren Township, she said,” if anyone wants to know who’s at fault here, the state, the state,” to a round of applause from the gallery.
Many residents expressed concern about the increased drain on the Township’s infrastructure, sewers, drainage, increased traffic, and impact on the schools and still others wanted to know what the qualifications for Affordable Housing are. The simplified answers are that the potential developers are responsible for providing adequate sewer. Qualification for Affordable Housing can range among nine levels, from a low/low of a salary 30% below the region’s median of $115,000, to a moderate salary just 80% below the median. If a settlement agreement is reached, all development is still subject to the approval of Warren’s Planning Board and in some proposed locations, also the Somerset County Planning Board and the State Department of Transportation.
Following is a letter to the editor on affordable housing and more from Committeewoman Carolann Garafola
View the meeting here:
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