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 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 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 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 and investigate alternative locations.

Gyrgiel said 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 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.


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miriam pickett August 10, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Sum is absolutely right. There is no reason to build the new Shop Rite anywhere other than its current location. Brookchester is the logical place for COAH housing. I'd love to know if there were any discussions between the town and the Brunettis about renovating existing apartments to bring them up to COAH standards. Our elected officials past and present owe us an explanation how this situation has gotten to this point. Why is there a referendum for funding the field of dreams and there was never one to authorize buying the UW property to keep it part of New Milford's heritage? Disgusting.
TommyIce August 10, 2012 at 11:29 PM
There's no reason for it not to be unhinged from the Heikemian variance request. If 7 people can decide to change the zoning for this project, then 7 people can decide the COAH obligation can go elsewhere. Brookchester (and any of the garden apartment complexes for that matter) should be required to provide it. Brookchester in particular, if I remember correctly from what my grandparents told me, were only to be temporary structures.
Ulises August 11, 2012 at 01:25 AM
It's so unfortunate our Mayor and Council will rezone this property and cave in to the developer's wishes. Some of them say how they are against the apartments, yet they are going to rezone this land so the ShopRite could be moved there. We don't need that development either! It's only going to increase traffic and flooding in town. There are properties, that are adjacent to the Hirshfield Creek and the Hackensack River that are being brought up because of flooding, yet our Mayor & Council want to build a ShopRite along the Hackensack??? Only one Council member has stepped up against developing this land, the rest ignore the voters. I voted for Berner because he campaigned against developing this land and I voted for Grant for similar reasons, and now I feel as both parties have let me down. When will they step up for those voters, who stuck their neck out for them and who are against developing along the river? When!?
Jon August 12, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Why is it so hard for the Mayor and Council to see what their constituents want? New Milford doesn't need this UW property developed to satisfy our COAH obligations. There are alternatives that make logical sense and yet the M&C chooses to ignore what is good for this town? They are elected representatives. Please represent your town's best interest.
David Bednarcik August 13, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Miriam and jon i agree


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