United Water Rezoning Study Challenges Affordable Housing Plan
If New Milford's COAH requirements can be moved elsewhere, does this debunk Hekemian's "inherently beneficial use" argument?
The crux of Hekemian's argument before the zoning board of adjustment is that the United Water property has been designated by the 2004 master plan as the location where New Milford will satisfy it's affordable housing obligations.
Hekemian, currently engaged in a sales contract with United Water to buy a 13.61-acre parcel, has proposed developing a 70,500 square foot supermarket, 4,300 square foot bank with two drive-thru lanes, and a four-story 221-unit multi-family housing complex, that will include an affordable housing component, a 428-space multi-level parking garage and a pool.
But a rezoning study authorized by the mayor and council challenges a 2004 Master Plan recommendation, which placed the town's affordable housing requirement solely on Hekemian's shoulders.
In seeking the rezoning study, Mayor Ann Subrizi asked planner Paul Gyrgiel, to address the location of New Milford's affordable housing requirement and investigate alternative locations.
Gyrgiel said COAH's (Council on Affordable Housing) requirements are not site specific, despite the fact that the 2004 Master Plan, which recommends a mixed-use development of professional offices and 120 to 144 age-restricted units, places the town's entire obligation on the United Water parcel. Grygiel reported that the affordable housing component can be unhinged from that property and placed elsewhere.
The 2008 Fair Share Plan that New Milford submitted to COAH calls for 200 units with 40 being designated for low-to-moderate income units. Of these 40 units, six would be applied towards New Milford's "prior round obligation" and the other 34 would address the borough's "growth share obligation."
"Growth Share" provides a municipality with a mechanism to predetermine its future affordable housing obligations by careful and deliberate land use planning. According to testimony provided by Hekemian planning expert Dr. David Kinsey, growth share calculations mean that every 9412 sq. ft. of mercantile use should trigger requirements for one low income unit in a housing plan. Every 5714 sq. ft. of business use should trigger one low income housing unit.
Despite the fact that the courts have reinstated COAH after Governor Christie's attempt to abolish it, it lacks sufficient staff for a quorum that would enable it to act. Towns remain in limbo with regard to their third round COAH requirements.
Grygiel informed the council that affordable housing can be accomplished through rehabilitation of existing property—it just falls upon the mayor and council to identify this property.
So the lingering question is this: If New Milford's COAH requirements can be moved and satisfied elsewhere, does this debunk Hekemian's argument that variances for this development should be granted under 'inherently beneficial use?'
Tell us what you think in the comments.