For many residents concerned about where and how many homes will be built to satisfy Hopewell Township’s affordable housing obligation, the wait is over. At the September 11th Township Committee meeting, it was determined that affordable and market rate housing will be built on the properties commonly referred to as “Woodmont,” “Zaitz,” Capital Health System (CHS), and “CF Hopewell.” This is in addition to a portion of land currently occupied by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and the site known as “Enourato.” In total, 653 affordable and 2,881 market rate units will be built on 1,085 acres. A sharp decline from the 1,756 affordable units litigated at trial and potential 15,804 market rate units proposed by Governor Christie.
The total number of units represents a 35% reduction from Fair Share Housing Center’s (FSHC) proposed number. FSHC (nonprofit housing advocacy group), Hopewell Township, and the landowners committed to building affordable housing on their land, reached a settlement this summer, ending a long and expensive litigation process.
In accordance with the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) second round rules, 20% of units built in Hopewell Township be affordable and the remainder, market rate.* Though most municipalities are required to build their units by 2025, Hopewell Township negotiated an unspecified date in which the units must be built. Going forward, though the Township plays a significant role in the planning process of the sites, construction milestones will largely be dependent on the individual developers. The permitting process, building the infrastructure, conducting traffic studies, etc. can all affect the project’s timeline. And, construction will be in pace with the real estate market, meaning they won’t build more than what they can successfully sell and rent.
For years, residents have voiced fears of meeting the Township’s affordable housing obligation. Their concerns included possible negative effects on the environment, negative impact on district schools, increased traffic, higher tax burden, and decreased viewshed.
Though many things have been decided upon, many questions remain as the redevelopment plan is actively being revised by the Township’s Planning Board. Among what is known is that all of the affordable units will be rental properties and will be interspersed throughout the sites. Of the market rate units, details have yet to emerge as to what kinds of housing (i.e. single family detached, townhomes etc.) will occur on the sites.
Concerning the cost to taxpayers and fears of increased traffic, developers will absorb the cost of new roads as well as installation of water and sewer to sites. Though distribution of the increased traffic will occur across three I-95 interchanges, further management is a priority. For the “Zaitz” site (Block 85, Lots 3, 4, 5.01, 7, and 2), effort will be made to alleviate traffic congestion onto Rt. 31 by distributing it onto nearby roads.
The 61-acre “Zaitz” property includes the Pennington Shoprite, Exxon Mobil, and the wooded area behind the supermarket. Besides building 78 affordable and 301 market rate units, the plan includes extension of sewer and water to the property that is currently on septic, removal of the Exxon Mobil to relieve traffic congestion, and construction of commercial properties (similar to Hopewell Crossing Shopping Center). Potentially, the Hopewell Township Community and Senior Center, and community gardens, will be built on that site as well.
Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s ability to withstand an increased student body due to the development is another issue addressed in the plan. Though the district has 600 available seats, and is projected to see an additional increase by 200-300 due to low class sizes at the elementary level, the redevelopment plan calls for measures to mitigate the development’s effect.
On the 22-acre “Woodmont” property (Block 78.09, Lot 21), nestled within Federal City and Bull Run Roads, all 300 units (48 affordable and 252 market rate) will be rental properties. The market rate units will be advertised as luxury rentals with the intention of attracting young professionals who typically wait on starting families.
Additionally, a continuing care and rehabilitation facility and an age-restricted community, totalling 35 affordable and 350 market rate units, will be built on the grounds of CHS (Block 91, Lots 3.11, 3.14, 3.161, 3.181, 3.191, 3.22, 3.95, 3.961).
Environmental protections and viewshed considerations are also a priority realized in the redevelopment plan. Mandated setbacks and planned tree preservation will protect the viewshed, and 178 acres will remain undeveloped on the “CF Hopewell” site for the purpose of protecting Jacobs Creek. “CF Hopewell” sits opposite CHS, on the other side of Scotch Road, from Washington Crossing-Pennington Road to I-95. On it, 430 affordable and 1,720 market rate units will be built (Block 93, Lots 3.01, 5.01, 6.01).
At this time, little is known about the development of the “Enourato” and BMS properties. “Enourato” (Block 78, Lot 17) is an 11-acre parcel of land located on the right side of 31 North, just before the traffic light as the traffic circle is approached. On it, 12 affordable and 58 market rate units will be built. As previously reported in MercerMe, BMS will be closing its Hopewell Township campus located on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road by 2020. Though the majority of the site will hopefully be sold to another life sciences company, a portion (441 acres) will see 50 affordable and 200 market rate units built.
To learn the history of affordable housing, an overview of the settlement, and read answers to resident questions about the process, click here to access the Township’s September 19th public presentation.
*NOTE: Article updated and clarified. Information confirmed with Fair Share Housing and NJFuture.