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Affordable Housing Testimony Dominates United Water Property Hearing

Dr. David Kinsey, the applicant's expert on affordable housing adds more units to the affordable housing component of the development.

(NMRA) once again called Dr. David Kinsey, a professional planner, to testify that the affordable housing component included in the site plans for the is an  at Tuesday's Zoning Board meeting.

The public had expected the meeting to open where the meeting had ended--with the public being able to question Michael Dipple, the applicant's expert engineer and principal of L2A Land Design in Englewood, who spoke to how the applicant would address flooding concerns on the property. Instead, Andy DelVecchio, an attorney with the firm Beattie Padovano who represents NMRA, called Kinsey as his witness for the night. 

Miriam Pickett, one of the founding members of , told Patch, "It doesn't surprise me. They're trying to avoid us asking them questions and getting them on the record."

"This is a way for them to get around us getting them on the record," Pickett added. 

The crux of Kinsey's testimony Tuesday, as it was when he testified at , was "inherently beneficial use" and the borough's need to comply with its affordable housing obligation. 

NMRA is arguing that the low income housing included in the development plan falls under "inherently beneficial" use and, therefore, they should be granted the variance to proceed with the development. 

Kinsey reiterated what he had testified to at the previous meeting on April 10. The application had originally called for 15 percent, or 33 units, of the 221 residential units be set aside to satisfy New Milford's low housing obligation.

However, Kinsey testified that because the applicant is proposing a mixed-use inclusionary development, the implementation of the commercial component of the proposed development generates an increased need for affordable housing units. Based on the value of both the non-residential and residential component, it is his recommendation that there be 40 set-aside low and moderate income housing units, which is about 18 percent of the 221 units. Affordable housing meets the recommendation of inherently beneficial use. 

Acting Chairman, Ronald Stokes, asked Kinsey if this 15 percent set-aside meets New Milford's COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) obligation or, "Does it meet your obligation to get approval to build your complex?"

Kinsey said New Milford has a 60 percent gap in meeting its Fair Share Housing obligation. "These 40 units will contribute significantly in having New Milford meet their Fair Share Housing obligation," he said.

Kinsey also pointed out that New Milford lacks sufficient vacant land as found in its 2008 Fair Share Housing plan and cited that the borough's master plan placed the fulfillment of its affordable housing obligation on the United Water property.

Borough Planner specifically appointed for this hearing, Paul Grygiel of the firm Phillips Preiss and Grygiel, disputed Kinsey's testimony that New Milford has not met its Fair Share Housing obligation. 

Grygiel said that New Milford submitted a plan to COAH that complied to COAH's rules and never heard back from that agency. Gov. Christie tried to eliminate COAH by exercising his executive powers, but the case is currently pending in the New Jersey Supreme Court. 

Grygiel asked Kinsey, "Should a municipality act on its own to implement the plan for fair housing when the agency charged is not acting?" 

"A municipality has a constitutional obligation to meet its Fair Share Housing requirement," Kinsey said. 

Board Attorney Scott Sproviero informed the expert and the audience that this standard is currently in limbo in the courts.

Sproviero clarified to Kinsey that regarding his testimony that New Milford is not in compliance with their Fair Share Housing, "Neither the court nor COAH has determined that New Milford is not in compliance."

"The facts are that none of the appropriate entities have determined that New Milford is not in compliance," Sproviero said.

"Correct," Kinsey replied. 

Testimony will continue at the May 17 meeting of the Zoning Board at 7pm in the council chambers of Borough Hall. 

Mary McElroy May 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM
On December 30, 2010 Hekemian entered into an agreement with UW to purchase the property for 7.2 million. NM had 4 months to decide to purchase; I imagine we did not act on that provision because of the price tag (I believe the town appraisal came in under 3m). According to the agreement I read with the State of NJ Board of Public Utilities, the developer has a 120-day due diligence period & has 15 months to seek approval for the development. The developer may seek up to two additional 3 month extension for its approval. After that, they can file for other extensions but it will start costing the more $$. The entire agreement is spelled out in BPU Docket No. WM 11030147; I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry in reading some of the points particularly "the sale of the properties is in the public interest since it will further the State's goals of open space, recreation and affordable housing...."
David Bednarcik May 11, 2012 at 01:15 AM
I could not make the meeting yesterday. How can I voice my concerns about over development that this would cause?
Ulises May 11, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Mr. Bednarcik, join other concern citizens, like yourself, at the library on the 15th at 7pm. We're working on strategies to hopefully Stop-Over-Development (SOD, follow us on Facebook) in New Milford. SOD!
Ulises May 11, 2012 at 02:17 AM
I think the board members and the borough planner asked great questions, but my favorite was by Mr. Sproviero's. His question to Mr. Kinsey clearly made Kinsey's highly paid opinionated testimony shed light on the fact, that he's a hired witnees paid to favor Suez/United Water's developers and nothing more. He has no real facts and will say whatever he's paid to say. The town is in full compliance with its affordable housing requirements and we don't need more apartments in town, period. As Ms. Scavetta stated earlier, we need to attend these meetings, ask questions on the record, and hopefully this nightmare, Suez/United Water has created, will be defeated. SOD!
miriam pickett May 11, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Mr. Bednarcik - SOD ( Stop Over Development) is meeting at the NM Library on Tuesday, May 15. We welcome your participation.

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