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At the Hopewell Township meeting last night, Township attorney Steve Goodell, announced that they have received the first, of likely multiple requests from a land developer to join the affordable housing process as it unfolds.

The letter that the Township received was from a group comprised of Deer Valley Realty, LLC and Travaline Farms (known as “Deer Valley”) which owns 160 acres just north of the Scotch Road area off of Dublin Road. The group is asserting its legal interest in being notified about any public meeting of the Township Committee or the planning board in which they intend to take action with regard to affordable housing, and they also request notification when the Township files its Declaratory Judgment with the Superior Court.

“What the Supreme Court told us last month is that when we file our Declaratory Judgment action in June/July, we are obligated to notify everyone on a service list. Some are already on the list because they have already expressed interested in developing in the state. The service list also includes affordable housing advocates. And it also includes those who want to be notified,” said Goodelll. “They [Deer Valley] will have the opportunity to file as an interested party and will be able to provide the court with what they think is a better affordable housing plan. They want to have their 160 acres included in the plan to be developed. And I suspect that this is just the first.”

Last week, the Fair Share Housing Center issued its state-wide calculations for affordable housing obligations, with Hopewell Township at 1000 units (technically approximately 1200 but is subject to the 1000 cap). MercerMe published No More Waiting, Affordable Housing Numbers Offered By Fair Share Housing. While these numbers were issued, they offer just one side of the picture.

“None of this suggests you are stuck with anything you read on this page,” said Hopewell Township planner, Frank Banisch, at last Thursday’s planning board meeting. “The Township will have the opportunity to show that the numbers have not been properly manipulated and we will have to prepare a housing plan within 5 months… And, until we have a number, we don’t want to start talking about how many sites we need to accumulate and what we need to be targeting.”

The planning board, last Thursday, gave instruction by unanimous vote to the Township Committee to file a Declaratory Judgment with the Superior Court challenging the numbers and essentially entering into the affordable housing process. Without that Declaratory Judgment filing, the Township could be immediately at risk for builder’s remedies, lawsuits against the Township by builders asserting that the planning or zoning has precluded the opportunity for affordable housing to be constructed within the municipality. Also, in this discussion, the Township planning board has not removed the possibility of developing what is known as “Pennytown” from its affordable housing plan.

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