Slated for 421-449 South Avenue East are 156 apartments 23 of which are to be affordable rentals.
WESTFIELD, NJ — The town’s affordable housing plan — the result of a court settlement — mandates the municipality create the opportunity to build 100 affordable apartments, and a plan in the works for 5.5 acres on the south side is anticipated to include 24 of those dwellings.
On Monday, the Planning Board recommended the five parcels located along South Avenue be declared a “non-condemnation area in need of redevelopment” under the state’s land use laws and authorized the town’s planner to create a redevelopment plan for the properties. The measure, which now heads to the Town Council for approval, gives the town’s government greater control over the development mandated under Westfield's affordable housing plan adopted in 2018.
“Surrounding communities: Fanwood, Garwood, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Montclair, Princeton, they’re all using the redevelopment law in order to effectuate certain developments within their communities,” said Town Planner Don Sammet in presenting his findings to the board. “It’s more proactive than regular development. It gives the municipality design power as well as giving the opportunity to contract with specific developers for parcels.”
Sammet’s 73-page preliminary investigation report outlines the five properties as being in need of redevelopment, explaining in extensive detail why the properties’ current conditions are either detrimental to the public good or not in keeping with the town’s overall guide for development. The specific parcels are as follows:
- 421-429 South Avenue East
- 445-449 South Avenue East
- 418 South Avenue East
- 338 Windsor Avenue
- 448 South Avenue East
The properties are already listed in the town’s Housing Element and Fair Share plan, which shows that 24 “affordable” housing units are designated for the properties. The plan mandates the town create zoning across the municipality to allow for the development of 100 affordable rentals at densities ranging from 9.1 units per acre to 37.7 units per acre.
Planned for 421-449 South Avenue East are 156 apartments, 23 of which are to be affordable rentals, the plan shows. Other than specify that 15% of the total units are to be affordable housing, the housing element does not provide specifics about the building.
The specifics are to be outlined in the redevelopment plan, officials said.
“Within a redevelopment plan you can actually get site specific for how you want to see each development,” Sammet said. Municipal officials can specify building requirements and design standards, he said.
The town is not seeking to take the lands by eminent domain, or condemnation, as other municipalities have done in their use of redevelopment law.
“We have to remind everybody it’s private property,” said Mayor Shelley Brindle, who sits on the Planning Board. “This isn’t town property. We can’t just suddenly decide to take private property.”
The town can, however, implement controls. “We can drive the outcome,” Brindle said.
Member Michael LaPlace said that by raising the value of the properties with improvements on the land, the municipality could also increase the tax dollars it collects from the lands.
A portion of the redevelopment area borders Garwood.
“This is a gateway into Westfield,” LaPlace said. “And first impressions are important when people enter into a community.”
The hundred apartments for which the town provided zoning for in it's 2018 housing plan are just a portion of the affordable housing need projected by the state. The municipality's “prospective need” under the Council on Affordable Housing's Third Round obligation is 1,090 units by 2025.
After the meeting, Sammet said there is no legal timeline by which the municipality must create and approve a redevelopment plan. He said the plan could be crafted in ways that do not adversely nearby homes, including those in Garwood.
“The redevelopment plan could be drafted in such a way that it mitigates any kind of impact to those adjacent homes — any kind of detrimental impact,” Sammet said.
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