At the Hopewell Township Committee meeting last night, Committee members discussed the future plans for the property known as “Pennytown” in the Marshall’s Corner area of Hopewell Township and its future as a site for affordable housing in partial-satisfaction of the constitutionally mandated COAH obligations.
The developer, Conifer, last appeared before the Hopewell Township Committee in July and presented site plans including the proposed location of well and septic. At the close of that meeting, Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom revealed the Township’s reservation to make a decision at the time, “This current plan is substantially different from what our expectations are… We, as a body, need to adjust our thinking… The best thing we can do, at this point, is to say that we are not going to make a decision to extend until we talk with our professionals.”
At this point, Conifer is still waiting for a decision from the Township. Steve Goodell, Township attorney explained that there is currently uncertainty regarding COAH obligations. Last week, COAH failed to meet the New Jersey Supreme Court’s deadline to adopt the new rules. It is expected that the Court will be issuing some type of action by the end of the week.
Hopewell Township is concerned about abandoned the project entirely because municipalities are given protection when they have a plan in place to satisfy the COAH affordable housing obligations, according Goodell. Therefore, the choices before the Township are to wait and see, keep the development as part of the affordable housing plan, or reallocate the affordable housing units to a different development location to continue to satisfy the COAH obligation.
“The 2008 Committee put Pennytown on our housing plan. Does the 2014 Committee have to make a decision tonight about whether we’re going forward with it? What’s the harm in waiting a little longer?” said Committee member Harvey Lester.
Committee member John Hart shared that he believes that the property is not appropriate for this development and does not need to wait for the COAH numbers, while Committee member Allen Cannon posed the issue of the possibility of the COAH obligations being even higher than the Township already believed.
Ultimately, the Hopewell Township Committee determined that the issue would be carried to the next agenda to wait to hear from an answer from COAH.