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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  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 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.

Mark G July 27, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Ulises, where did the riverkeeper get this money? Is it donations, or is public money grants? If it is public money grants, it is taxpayer money. What is the contract price of the UW property? Where will the rest of the money come from to purchase the property from UW or the contract purchaser? From the tax records, the property is currently assessed at $2.5M. Just trying to understand the lay of the land and to understand the grandstanding and offers of $1.5M for a down payment from the riverkeeper. A down payment would not help, becuase there is no way anyone would hold a note on this property for the purpose of buying it for open space. If there was to be a note it would be a public bond, at the expense of the taxpayers. I can see there is a lot of frustration and finger pointing, but the fact is, as the planner stated, the property is zone residental and something by right, can be built. So an offer of building you a half a bridge by the riverkeeper will not get you to the otherside. This issue is much larger then then 16 arces at question, this is a regional issue that will not be so easily resolved. I think you are doing the correct thing, but where does it end? What will you do when Brookchester puts in an application for five 6 story apartment towers? or the old Washington School property is being sold to WalMart? Obviously, these things aren't happening.................. yet.
miriam pickett July 28, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Mark, had Berner shown any interest at all in the Riverkeeper's offer, there was another environmental group, SWAN, ready to step up with additional monies. By combining the two it was possible the rest of the money could have come from grants. This mayor and council threw in the towel and rolled over for the developer to come in with this insane development project. And now, instead of letting what will be an absolute turn down by the ZBOA, they propose to rezone this property to mixed use so that this developer or any developer can come in and build on this highly sensitive land. They are myopic, without any vision at all. Our mission is to stop this dead. We are not dreamers. We understand the political and financial realities of what is happening here. We are exploring all avenues, including recall of the mayor and other elected officials who ignore the public's outrage that this has been allowed to happen SOD!!!
AML July 28, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Could not have said it better Miriam! It is quite obvious that the ball was dropped by Howard Berner and the Mayor. Either there was no interest to keep the property as open space from the onset, & hence, no initiative was taken to pursue the Riverkeeper's $1.5 million offer, or, sheer ignorance and ineptitude. The $1.5 million offer by the Riverkeeper only came to light during the public forum at the M & C meeting this past Monday by a member of SOD. The attempt to "wiggle" out of the jam failed, and now the residents of New Milford have knowledge of what should have been made public at the time. For the Mayor to have said that a check was not in their hands is the most ludicrous statement to date. The initiative to follow-up with the offer should have been the responsibility of the governing body. If someone approached me, & said that he/she had 2 Accounting positions to fill in his/her company, & I am currently unemployed, wouldn't it be my responsibility to send this individual my resume, & follow-up with a phone call? OR, should I sit back, & do absolutely nothing, because this individual did not hand me a job? Although different situations, the premise is exactly the same! I rest my case!
Lori Barton July 29, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Please, Patch readers, tell your friends and neighbors what is going on. Make sure that they, too, follow what's happening on Patch. And if they are not Internet savvy, please make sure they understand that our M&C has dropped the ball on this. Tell how the down payment was rebuffed. This is the big election issue for New Milford this fall. Forget about party loyalty and find out the record of each candidate when it comes to this property. SOD!!
Mark G August 05, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Sounds like you are in favor of having the public foot the bill to buy this property? I keep hearing about a down payment? What does that mean? Where is this money from the riverkeeper and swan coming from? Is it public money too? Or is it private donations? If you are looking to buy this property with grant money, that is taxpayer money.

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