Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Summarizing Denville's Affordable Housing Crisis !

  • The State has a Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). They were supposed to give direction to municipalities on what the requirements are for accommodating (zoning, master plans, etc..) developers to potentially build affordable housing options
  • COAH did a poor job determining those requirements and is being challenged in Supreme Court of NJ
  • The Court is now attempting to be the ones to determine what those requirements are 
  • The FAIR SHARE HOUSING Center claims Denville should build 1313 Affordable Units by 2025 (which means over 6000 total affordable and higher end units because developers build 5 non-affordable for every 1 affordable unit.  By that way that is nearly double the amount of households Denville currently has)
  • DENVILLE believes we have met our share of requirements.
  • However, the Court (while it determines what the actual required number of units for Denville are) requires Denville to continue “moving forward” with a plan to accommodate affordable housing (even though we don’t know what that requirement is).  If we don’t “move forward” we are not immune from Developers suing the Township to force us to develop.  This is how the development at Peer Place came about.  If we were sued we could be forced into allowing a developer to essentially build a high density “project” wherever they want.  
  • Denville is “moving forward” with a moderate plan to accommodate around 70-100 affordable units so we can keep immunity from being sued by developers.  That plan would assume about 500 total residential areas by 2025. One of which is a possible Redevelopment along Route 53 which would be about 8 affordable units and the rest mid-high end units.  Keep in mind this would satisfy about 16-18 units of obligation due to various incentives, etc..  I have a lot of concerns about this re-development but we have to look at it.
  • Denville has very little space (if any) for developing anything.  Therefore, we can only look to redevelop areas.  These would be areas that potentially could be developed anyway, most of the time by commercial development like businesses, etc..  We have often looked at submitting these areas as “rehabilitation” zones which allows Denville to more strictly define the aethetics and requirements of the development and allows us to rezone those areas for residentially instead of commercial.  (i.e. we often also ask for other community improvements such as the sewer lines and access road brought in to Estling Lake Villages area)  We do recognize that accommodating for residential re-development impacts traffic, township resources, school resources.  However, this is the predictament we are in due to the above factors.
  • Please stay informed and help the township make the right decisions.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on the topic and naturally some people are playing politics with the topic.  As a councilperson I would love to say “hey let’s not build a thing in Denville ever again” but I realize that’s not going to be possible and would result in massive lawsuits in addition to massive housing development dictated to us.  Some tough decisions have to be made and we have to really stand up to our state legislatures, Governor and others to demand a reasonable solution to accommodate affordable housing fairly.

What's Being Built on Route 53? - My Perpsective

New Development on Route 53?  - Here's My Perspective

Not necessarily and not for a while and NOT 100.  That has never been discussed.  Early ideas were around 57-60 units and even that is not approved yet.   From this Councilperson's perspective, I (and the rest of the Council) have only approved the area, where the abandoned printing facility on Route 53 is, be submitted as a "Rehabilitation Area".    There will be many public meetings, proposals, reviews and more over the next few years to determine.  ALSO THE REASON WHY THIS IS EVEN A CONSIDERATION IS THE NJ COURTS ARE FORCING TOWNS TO DEVELOP TO ALLOW FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING OBLIGATIONS which is incredibly frustrating and we have a right to be angry.  Denville believes we have met our "Fair Share" housing obligation but the FAIR SHARE HOUSING COUCIL is claiming we need another 1313 affordable units (which mean over 6000 total units. It's INSANE)  We are waiting for the courts to decide but in order to keep from being sued by developers (who can sue to develop anywhere they want to any density), we have to keep "moving forward" to a plan.  The court's have not determined what "moving forward" means.

The state allows us certain advantages for redevelopment.  I approve of allowing that area to have "redevelopment".  Currently, another factory could open up there tomorrow without requiring any approval.  They could come in and have 150 employees going in and out each day.  So at some point there will be something built there again.  I believe it's best for us to insure it can be the right fit for our town and options where we can have certain requirements.

A MAJOR concern for me.  Traffic on 53 is horrible.  I need to see more traffic studies on how a development there will work.  But again, a factory could open up there tomorrow without any approval and supply 150 people commuting in and out of town everyday.  Traffic is going to get worse everywhere in our state.  And Route 53 will be a challenge especially when something is developed in Morris Plains where the old Warner Lambert facility was. We have more people in this area overall.  The challenge is finding the balance of good traffic flow.  I'm committed to finding that.  Can NJ expand Route 53?  Can we re-route traffic a certain way?  That's what I am hoping to find out and may be contingent on whether I would support this project going forward.

NJ Transit has mentioned it but nothing is official and a new residential area at the station could affect the decision.

This is an important question that needs to be answered. Another one, how much will any development affect other Township resources?  Although traditionally, transit villages have had less of an effect to those resources.  I still need to see more info. And again, the total number of units seen so far was around 57-60.

Essentially this is the only reason the rehabilitation area and a POSSIBLE transit village complex is even being remotely considered.  DENVILLE IS BEING FORCED BY NJ COURTS TO BUILD A SPECIFIC NUMBER OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS.  Blame the NJ legislatures, blame the Governor-The NJ Council on Affordable Housing has done nothing to provide guidance to municpalitieis trying to accommodate fair housing. Now the NJ Courts are telling towns how many affordable housing units they need to build but unclear direction on how that formula is being calculated.  A "possible" complex would satisfy some of those obligations due to various factors even though many of the units will be higher priced models.  DENVILLE RESIDENTS SHOULD BE FURIOUS ABOUT THIS AS AM I.   I will be speaking more on this and looking for residents to help us find solutions to combat this.  We have provided the courts our estimate of what we think is a fair obligation and we are awaiting their response.

No.  Only 8-9 of potentially 57-60 are affordable.  However, those will count double to our affordable housing requirements.  No developer wants to just build affordable units because they want to make money.  Plus, it is wrong and unfair to stick all affordable units and their residents into one complex.  That would essentially be "project" housing which in my opinion is almost unconstitutional. They should be able to have the same quality access to a community.   However, in order to accommodate for potential what the NJ Courts will mandate our affordable unit requirements to be, developers will want to build many non-affordable units.  For every affordable unit the state requires us to build, expect a developer to build 5 higher end units.

We can't dictate to a developer where he wants to build a property but we do have a Master Plan and we do zone areas of our town.  There is not much space left in Denville to build something new.  However, there are places where commercial establishments once were they are zoned for development.  Route 53 is one of those areas.  Keep in mind that an industrial/commercial property could open up in this same location tomorrow and add 150 cars to rush hour traffic along Route 53 and they would not need any approval.  That's why a residential property and rehabilitation zone should be considered.  With that, our Township can specify certain improvements to the area.  We can request certain requirements for parking, sidewalk, traffic flow and more.

First, remember Denville's review of this possible scenario is still just a review. This will take years. Every mention of the proposed area has been done in public meetings.  The Council is made up of volunteers.  I personally have absolutely nothing to gain by a development being built in that area.  As a matter of fact, as a resident who commutes that route every day, I am EXTREMELY concerned about the potential traffic.  Although I do recognize that traffic is not going to get better on Route 53 and if the Township does nothing ever again on 53, more stores, shops and more commuters will still show up on this route.  Anybody who is charging that somehow "Denville officials" are getting some benefit from this is greatly misinformed and frankly a bit ignorant to how government functions.  I encourage all residents to come out to Town Council & Planning Board meetings and get involved.  We've actually had a few residents that have come with many good questions and suggestions.  Please don't just sit back and criticize decisions.  Instead, be part of the conversation and help the town make the right decisions.   Ultimately, no decision on this matter will be perfect but we have to plan something.