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Allentown officials concerned with Upper Freehold affordable housing plan

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Allentown officials concerned with Upper Freehold affordable housing plan

ALLENTOWN – An affordable housing plan that was recently adopted by municipal officials in Upper Freehold Township is causing concern in Allentown.

Mayor Greg Westfall and Borough Council members held an executive (closed) session meeting on Aug. 5 and one item listed on the agenda was potential litigation as a legal response to Upper Freehold’s affordable housing plan.

In an interview on Aug. 6, Westfall said several aspects of Upper Freehold’s affordable housing plan are a concern for Allentown officials and residents.

“A number of us, including council President (Thomas) Fritts, Councilman (Rob) Schmitt, myself and others appeared at a June meeting in Upper Freehold. We raised some questions that we don’t feel were answered.

“Our residents are showing concern that one (designated) area for affordable housing in Upper Freehold is near our border,” the mayor said, adding that Allentown’s “efforts to try to work things out with Upper Freehold” have not come to fruition.

The Borough Council will hold its next public meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 20 in Borough Hall.

On July 11, Township Committee members in Upper Freehold adopted four ordinances that amended the municipal code and created four affordable housing zoning districts:

• District 1 will include three lots on Old York Road;

• District 2 will include one lot on New Canton-Stone Tavern Road (Route 524) near the intersection with Imlaystown-Hightstown Road;

• District 3 will include one lot on New Canton-Stone Tavern Road (Route 524);

• District 4 will include five lots on Allyson Way.

According to the ordinances, apartments and townhomes will be the principal permitted and required uses in the four affordable housing districts. For-sale housing is specifically prohibited in District 4 on Allyson Way.

Upper Freehold officials took the action to comply with a state mandate that required them to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing in the community.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market prices to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

According to municipal officials, Upper Freehold’s affordable housing obligation is four units. The township was initially required to provide 193 affordable housing units, but because there is no sewer infrastructure in the township, the obligation was reduced to four units.

Upper Freehold officials said they would seek to satisfy the municipality’s obligation through a market rate to affordable housing program through which officials will deed restrict current market rate housing and provide the homeowner with money for the deed restriction.

The plan, as approved in state Superior Court, calls for the construction of no new market rate housing unless a developer gains access to a public sewer infrastructure system, according to Upper Freehold officials.

In addition to the four ordinances which establish the affordable housing zoning districts, Township Committee members adopted an ordinance implementing Upper Freehold’s affordable housing plan, which was created through a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill.

The Fair Share Housing Center advocates for the creation of affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

Municipal officials said on the chance there is sewer infrastructure available in Upper Freehold, the overlay zoning on the four sites in the settlement agreement could generate between 580 and 772 market rate units. The number of units generated would depend upon whether the proposed affordable housing was for sale or for rent.

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