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Board approves fair share plan as affordable housing issue continues in Howell

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Board approves fair share plan as affordable housing issue continues in Howell

HOWELL – The Howell Planning Board has adopted the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan of the township’s master plan.

The document relates to Howell’s affordable housing strategy from 1999 through 2025. Under state law, municipalities must provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing within their borders.

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

A public hearing on the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan was conducted during the board’s July 18 meeting. No one from the public spoke about affordable housing when given the opportunity to do so.

The board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro, explained that New Jersey court cases dating back 40 years “determined the state Constitution requires every municipality to provide what is called a realistic opportunity to provide low and moderate income housing.”

He said the 1985 Fair Housing Act formalized the affordable housing requirements.

The board’s planner, Peter Van den Kooy, presented the Housing Element and Fair Share Plan to the board members and agreed with Cucchiaro’s explanation that the document was prepared in accordance with “what is essentially a court mandate.”

During his comments, Van den Kooy spoke about two proposed affordable housing projects in Howell; the first project is known as Zaback, and the second project is known as Quarry and Tyrpak.

According to the planner, Zaback is a project on Route 9 south (approximately opposite the New Jersey Transit Howell Garage at 1251 Route 9 north) that will contain 360 residential units, of which 108 units will be designated as affordable housing.

Van den Kooy said the developer was a party to affordable housing litigation. He said Howell’s representatives and the developer have entered into an agreement which would require municipal officials to rezone the property to permit the development as proposed, including the affordable housing.

Van den Kooy said the developer has confirmed there will be affordable family rentals as the units for individuals and families with low and moderate incomes.

The Zaback property totals 20 acres, of which about 16 acres are capable of being developed. The tract is in a Highway Development zone and is surrounded by commercial and residential uses to the north and the south. There are residential uses to the west of the site, according to municipal officials.

There are environmentally sensitive areas on the Zaback site, including wetlands on the western edge. Van den Kooy said it appears there are sufficient uplands on the site. A bobcat, which is a state endangered species, was last observed in the area in 1998.

Van den Kooy said those issues are not anticipated to preclude development of the Zaback parcel.

Continuing his presentation, Van den Kooy said the Quarry and Tyrpak project consists of two parcels on Casino Drive. It is anticipated there will be 458 residential units, of which 138 units will be designated as affordable housing.

Van den Kooy said the developer was a party to affordable housing litigation. He said Howell’s representatives and the developer have entered into an agreement which would require municipal officials to rezone the property to permit the development as proposed, including the affordable housing.

Van den Kooy said the developer has confirmed there will be affordable family rentals as the units for individuals and families with low and moderate incomes.

The two parcels associated with this project are separated by Casino Drive. The tracts are identified as the north parcel (18 acres) and the south parcel (219 acres). The properties are in the Rural Agriculture/Residential zone and are surrounded by single-family homes and woods, according to municipal officials.

There are environmentally sensitive areas on the Quarry and Tyrpak properties, including wetlands and steep slopes. About 55 percent of the site appears to be constrained by wetlands, according to municipal officials. There is a flood hazard area at the northerly border of the north parcel.

A bobcat, which is a state endangered species, was last observed on the site in 1998. The proposed development site is in the PA-4B Rural/Environmentally Sensitive Planning Area.

The Quarry and Tyrpak parcels are directly adjacent to an existing sewer service district and Van den Kooy said Howell officials would cooperate with the developer to ensure that water and sewer connections would be provided to the properties.

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