Unhinging Affordable Housing Component from United Water Property
Although the 2004 master plan parked the town's affordable housing obligation here, a fact that is the crux of Hekemian's argument before the zoning board, can it be moved elsewhere?
This is the topic that pushed Monday's mayor and council meeting well past midnight as zoning board planner, Paul Grygiel of the firm Phillips, Preiss, Grygiel, presented his rezoning study of the 13-acre United Water property to the Mayor and Council.
In calling for a rezoning study at the mayor and council's May work session, Mayor Ann Subrizi specifically asked the planner to address the location of New Milford's affordable housing requirement under COAH that the 2004 master plan rests solely on the United Water property.
Gyrgiel reported that COAH's affordable housing requirements are not site specific despite the fact that the 2004 master plan places the town's entire obligation on the United Water property. The affordable housing component, the crux of Hekemian's argument before the zoning board, can be unhinged from that property and placed elsewhere.
Although Hekemian expert Dr. David Kinsey has argued that New Milford has a COAH requirement of 40 units, Grygiel said that all of New Milford's prior round COAH obligations have been fulfilled except for six units. The 34 affordable housing units Hekemian included in his plans have yet to be ruled on by COAH.
Grygiel said that Brookchester can be considered as a viable location to place the town's affordable housing requirements as long as those units were rehabilitated to meet COAH's requirements. This would be considered "market-to-affordable" which is acceptable under COAH for up to 20 units.
Regarding rezoning the United Water property, Grygiel recommended designating the property an area in need of rehabilitation. This option applies to property that contains, in part, a water and sewer infrastructure that is at least 50 years old and is in need of repair or substantial maintenance.
A rehabilitation area can be designated by resolution of the governing body without having to have a public hearing before the planning board. The municipality could designate the property as a rehabilitation area and develop a simple redevelopment plan pursuant to a redeveloper agreement. This option gives the governing body more leverage in dealing, and negotiating, with a potential developer.
Grygiel suggested this option as the one that will give the governing body the most control over what could potentially go there. He said that because the property is already zoned (residential) something is going to be built on the site.
Grygiel said that rezoning the property would not affect the current application being heard by the zoning board regarding the development of that property.
"It would be up to the applicant if they wanted to push forward or agree to the council's rezoning," Grygiel said.
As for SOD's push to have the town purchase the property for open space, Councilwoman Hedy Grant said that because United Water and Hekemian are in the middle of a private land sale, the town is not in a position to make an offer on that property, even if money for purchase became available.