Yet another developer is expressing interest in constructing affordable housing in Hopewell Township. Already having thrown its hat into the affordable housing ring by submitting a letter to Hopewell Township on April 30, 2015, CF Hopewell continues to express intent to be an interested party in providing low and moderate income housing as part of Hopewell Township’s process of satisfying its affordable housing obligation.
In a letter dated June 30, 2015, CF Hopewell’s attorneys provided a conceptual plan for an “inclusionary development” on the west side of Scotch Road on land designated as Block 93, Lot 6.01 consisting of approximately 200 acres. According to the letter, “the plan is conceptually and would include an open space and recreational component that would link the neighborhoods to each other and the open space.” The plan could be modified to include a neighborhood commercial center including restaurants, convenience store, cleaners, etc.
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The affordable housing set-asides (the ratio of market rate to affordable housing units) would be 15% for rental and 20% for for-sale units. The submitted conceptual plan includes 540 apartments, 280 singles and 568 townhomes — 1388 total units.
At Hopewell Township’s special committee meeting last night, Township attorney Steve Goodell explained that this is another case of a developer staking out a position as the town reexamines its affordable housing plan. The expressed interest would potentially serve to show a judge that Hopewell Township is deficient in providing the opportunity for affordable housing and that this developer is ready to build so Hopewell Township should be ordered to do so.
Practically speaking, letters from developers would be considered by the Township planning board as it redoes its housing plan however, as Goodell explained, the planning board would consider them but are not obligated to do so however ignoring them may result in challenges to the constitutionality of the overall housing plan.
“After seeing [CF Hopewell’s] plan, it is moving in the wrong direction with fewer credits to affordable housing, traffic concerns on Scotch Road are still there and, if anything, [this plan] mars the bucolic landscape worse than before,” said Committee member Kevin Kuchinski. “I understand we need a number but if we’re not planning and being proactive, we’re ceding this to the developers. I don’t have a solution tonight but we need to figure out how to get out ahead of this.”
The planning board is still planning to plan or actually beginning to plan. At last week’s planning board meeting, the board gave Township planner Frank Banisch more clear direction in his exploration of vacant lands, potential sites for affordable housing. The planning board directed Banisch to consider, as the current master plan dictates, only areas within sewer service, which would be predominantly the southern portion of the Township.
“There is public policy in place that limits growth, such as in the mountain region, and growth should be directed toward sewer service areas… The public policies in the township support that growth would be focused in the southern portion of the township,” said Banisch at the June 25th planning board meeting.
And the planning board agreed that the master plan’s intentions should be honored.
“The master plan was intended to preserve portions of the township that is not appropriate for growth because of environmental reasons and I see no reason to change that,” said planning board member Mary Lou Ferrara. “As an original member on the board [when the master plan was developed], this is a wise document that can provide good guidance in the future.”
And others agreed but preferred the planning to not be exclusively focused on the southern portion of the Township. “It shouldn’t all be located in the southern portion of the township,” said Bruce Gunther, planning board member. “All areas that are sewer service should be looked at for affordable housing.”
Banisch is currently working on a vacant land map now that should be completed by next week, which is also around the same time that the Township will be filing its declaratory judgment. “We need to comprehensively understand everything we need to know and then bring that to the public,” he explained.
At the special committee meeting last night, after careful deliberation and debate, Hopewell Township committee members passed a resolution 4-1, with Kevin Kuchinski* dissenting, allowing the Township to enter a shared services agreement with many other municipalities to hire Dr. Robert Burchell, the Director of Urban Planning and Policy Development Program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, to provide the consortium of municipalities with a statewide analysis for the need for affordable housing to contradict the numbers presented by Fair Share Housing.
UPDATE 12:40pm 7/2/15: Correction made to reflect that Kevin Kuchinski was the dissenting vote and not John Hart, as was originally reported.