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Residents react to Millstone affordable housing agreement

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Residents react to Millstone affordable housing agreement

MILLSTONE – A settlement agreement that is expected to result in the construction of affordable housing and market rate housing is being met with concern from Millstone Township residents.

The settlement agreement was a source of concern for residents who attended the Township Committee’s meeting on Sept. 5. Their attendance followed the committee’s passage of a resolution on Aug. 21 which authorized an agreement to resolve issues concerning the township’s affordable housing obligation.

During the Aug. 21 meeting, committee members said the agreement was for an inclusionary development of market rate and affordable housing units.

Officials elaborated at the Sept. 5 meeting and explained that in the agreement that is under consideration, there would be one affordable housing unit constructed for every four market rate housing units that are constructed. No details regarding a specific residential development were provided that evening.

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

“It was always Millstone’s intention, as we have done before, to have (developments of) 100 percent affordable housing; our own municipally sponsored units,” Deputy Mayor Nancy Grbelja said on Aug 21.

“Funding was not available and (now) we were forced to have one inclusionary development. For us, it was a nightmare, but it was the only thing we could do. We had to find a location that we felt would be least intrusive to what our master plan dictates, which means no sewer and no public water in Millstone, which would affect our zoning, and we found that,” Grbelja said.

The committee members emphasized that if they did not approve the settlement agreement, it could lead to the township losing its immunity from builders’ remedy lawsuits and further litigation related to Millstone’s affordable housing obligation.

Grbelja said representatives of the Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, who advocate for the construction of affordable housing throughout New Jersey, believed Millstone’s obligation should be 400 affordable units, but she said the two entities were able to settle on 231 affordable units.

Officials said if the settlement agreement was not approved, the township would be engaged in litigation to maintain the 231 affordable unit requirement, leading to additional costs.

According to a resolution, the settlement agreement is between Millstone Township, the Fair Share Housing Center and Showplace Farms, LLC.

Members of the governing body acknowledged that Showplace Farms is the intervenor in Millstone’s affordable housing litigation and that Showplace Farms owner Howard Schoor is seeking to have Toll Brothers develop market rate and affordable housing units.

Residents voiced their concerns with the settlement agreement at the Sept. 5 meeting, citing potential issues including traffic, water, emergency services, an increase in the township’s population and the impact of new housing on the school district.

The residents said many details about the agreement had not been made available to the public, including the location of an inclusionary development, the number of housing units and the number of bedrooms in the units.

“We don’t know what the plan looks like,” said Chris Pepe, who is the vice chairman of the Planning Board. “This developer has never come before the board.”

Any application that proposes the construction of homes in Millstone Township would be subject to review by the Planning Board, during which time residents would be able to comment on all aspects of the developer’s proposal to construct market rate and affordable housing.

Because the settlement agreement has not been approved in state Superior Court, committee members said they could not go into detail to avoid jeopardizing the agreement. Committee members said the housing units may not be developed in one location.

The committee members said they would answer questions at a future meeting, which may be a special meeting.

Township Attorney Duane Davison said a fairness hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7, at which time the settlement agreement may be approved by the court.

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