The Hillsborough Township Planning Board approved the first phase of the Sherman Tract Redevelopment Plan for an affordable housing development to be built near Concord Avenue and Estelle Street.
The decision from the Hillsborough planners came after an initial July 11 public hearing on the application, which included extensive testimony from the applicant’s professionals of RPM Development, LLC, as well as a lengthy public comment period that influenced the board to extend the hearing to its July 25 meeting.
According to RPM’s application, the developer sought preliminary and final approval for a major subdivision; preliminary and final major site plan approval; a bulk variance; and waivers to subdivide approximately 62 acres into two lots and develop a proposed lot to construct a multi-family residential development.
The proposed development consists of 13 two-story buildings, a clubhouse building and associated stormwater management, parking and improvements in accord with the Sherman Redevelopment Plan.
The developer’s professionals said their plans call for the first part of proposed construction on the parcel, which encompasses approximately 31 acres, would include 88 rental housing units of which 87 units will be affordable family rental housing units, with one market rate unit to be occupied by the on-site property manager in the 13 two-story townhouses.
The property is in a rehabilitation area to which the redevelopment plan refers. Officials explained there is a 65-acre tract that was purchased by the township in 2018 for the construction of affordable housing in an effort to meet Hillsborough’s court-imposed affordable housing obligation.
Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.
Although multiple residents voiced concerns at the meeting in regards to the municipality approving further affordable housing developments to be constructed similar to the Sherman Tract as well as it congesting the area, Hillsborough Township Mayor Frank DelCore explained that this plan “lessens the burden” on the municipality given its court mandates.
“Affordable housing is a reality in New Jersey. Every municipality is facing the same concerns,” DelCore said. “I wish I could tell you this matter would be resolved and that the legislature would deem the requirements no longer placed upon us, but that is not where we are at today, so as a municipality, it would be irresponsible for us to not work towards compliance with the current requirements that the courts and Fair Share [Housing Association] we know will place upon us.
“This development, while recognizing some of the concerns that have been addressed here tonight, this is a 100% affordable development. What that means is if it was only a 20% set aside, we would have four times the number of units in this development. Instead, we only have 88 units instead of close to 400 units.
“This development has significantly less impact on the total municipality than another development,” DelCore said.
About the Sherman Tract Redevelopment Plan:
Officials said the redevelopment plan established the standards under which the housing would be developed. In accordance with the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law, officials said the tract was designated as an area in need of rehabilitation by the Hillsborough Township Committee in July 2018.
Officials said the goals of the redevelopment plan are to allow for the creative and flexible transformation of an underused tract into a productive and stabilizing development that will complement the surrounding residential neighborhoods and directly contribute to the production of affordable housing.
Officials also said the current objectives for the rehabilitation area are to: provide parcels of land of sufficient size and dimension to enable an orderly arrangement of new land uses; create land use and building requirements specific to the rehabilitation area that are sensitive to environmental features, particularly those associated with the Royce Brook and nearby residential uses; and curtail the encroachment of non-residential uses into the immediate neighborhood.
The Sherman property is framed by residential uses along Camplain Road and South 20th Street. Officials said the plan would prevent any industrial incursions into the residential neighborhood and require that all of the units constructed on the site meet low and moderate income affordability requirements.
Officials said the plan divides the Sherman property into two parcels, “A” and “B.”
Parcel “A,” near Camplain Road and South 20th Street, calls for development consistent with the surrounding residential district. The 3-acre parcel is zoned residential, not industrial, and the plan leaves the residential zoning in place.
Parcel “B” is 62 acres. The plan calls for the development of multi-family housing consisting of approximately 176 units at no more than eight units per building.
According to the project’s planning director, David Maski, Hillsborough officials adopted a Housing Plan Element and Fair Share Plan in 2010 that was in compliance with the New Jersey Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) third round rules.
Since then, COAH has been dissolved and the courts have taken full jurisdiction over the state’s affordable housing process.
The ordinance for the redevelopment plan was introduced in January and was unanimously adopted at a March 13 township committee meeting.