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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. 

Lori Barton May 10, 2012 at 11:59 AM
All of Kinsey's comments are predicated on his opinion. He believes that New Milford has not met its Fair Share Housing obligation but under questioning he had to admit that none of the pertinent entities has determined that we are not in compliance. Regardless, this fight is not about affordable housing. The only reason Hekemian has included the affordable housing is to try to prove that this development will have "inherent benefits" and should therefore be granted a "D" variance. But ANY development on this property that increases impervious coverage will exacerbate flooding conditions in the rest of New Milford. Especially if there are provisions in place to reduce flooding in the new development, all of that water will end up in our high school, on Columbia Street, and on Pine Street. There should be NO construction allowed on flood plains. Period.
miriam pickett May 10, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Lori - most important to me is that this "witness" has never looked at the plans, nor is he conversant with the flooding problems. How can this project be "inherently beneficial" to anyone, current residents and future apartment dwellers alike, with the threat of flooding hanging over them?
Jerry May 10, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Yes, but additional house will bring more ratables, and will give senior citizens an opportunity to live a decent life, not one boxed inside an assisted living community! They deserve to stay independent, and we need to build these houses for our mothers and fathers who helped this town grow and thrive. We really do.
Lori Barton May 10, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Absolutely right, Miriam. His expertise is in affordable housing. He doesn't look at any other aspect of the plan. This is not a vacuum. All of the other variables need to be considered. No one should be subjected to the flooding, current or future residents. No children deserve to be in overcrowded classrooms, current or future students. No one should be subjected to air, water or noise pollution. No one should be put in harm's way due to unsafe traffic conditions. Just because affordable housing is an admirable goal does not mean that this development should be approved. There is so much wrong with this application that needs to be considered. I'm sure if this project was to be approved, Dr. Kinsey would not want to live there. People who are eligible for affordable housing should not be subjected to these conditions, nor should the current residents of New Milford be forced to adapt to these unfavorable and unhealthy conditions.
Emily Rostkowski May 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Question- of the 221 units 40 are set aside as "affordable". Which units are set aside? The ones on the 1st floor so that they flood? Who will pay for their relocation?
Emily Rostkowski May 10, 2012 at 01:41 PM
@Jerry- if you consider the extra staffing the police department will need to do, the added burden on the schools- more teaching staff, expendables, and physical space (possible trailers or expansion to put the kids in), burden to the infrastructure - roads with tractor trailers passing over them every day multiple times a day.. will need repavement and constant resurfacing, etc. etc. etc... it will cost more than the ratables brought in! Hekemian already showed the town in April of 2011 - 2 options of what they could do and how those plans would effect the town financially... the residences would put the town in the red! A 70,500 sq ft. ShopRIte is enormous! It's twice the size of the current one. Fairway along 17 and Oradell Ave (both roads made for tractor trailers) is only 50,000 sq. feet. Can you imagine how big this thing will be, in the middle of a small town, and next to a HS? In addition, there are other senior housing options other than assisted living.. there are many many developments going on all over for 55+ and those homes are usually beautiful! Montvale has many! I agree many people helped this town grow and thrive.. but building this development won't help our parents. Rather, we'd be adding more heartache- their pictures and valuables destroyed in a flash flood. If they don't move fast enough they'll likely get mowed down like the lady on tuesday night on River. It's dangerous and not a help to our town!
Rick May 10, 2012 at 03:42 PM
I've corresponded with Rich Henning at United Water multiple times that are all documented by email & verifiable. Here's what he has to say, "It was your personal choice to purchase property in a federally designated flood zone alongside the Hackensack River and live there. Your town officials are the ones who allowed the property to be developed".
Concerned NM Resident May 10, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Everyone needs to realize that this is going to move forward whether residents of New Milford like it or not. Keep in mind that the Hekemian group can afford to tie us up in courts for years. Residents should focus on a few things: 1. Flooding mitigation 2. Multi-purpose sports complex 3. What will become of the current Shop Rite site? Get Hekemian to fix our flooding and pay for the sports complex that this town sorely needs. We also need to ask what will become of the current Shop Rite site? More apartments? New Milford's infrastructure is already stretched as it is! This is a mess!
Lori Barton May 10, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Concerned Resident: Your comment concerning our infrastructure is exacty why we need to be united against this development. There is no way our streets, schools, emergency services, etc can support this development. And there is no way that Hekemian will be able to mitigate the flooding. Their development will only worsen the situation. This may be tied up in court for years but that will cost us less than it will cost us if it is built.
Denise May 10, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Jerry-The addtional housing that you talk about are still considered apartments in a "unit". What is the difference between these apartments & an assisted living community? The Senior Citizens will still be ending up living in a "square box". I would love to stay "independent", however my house is for sale....Doe's that sound independent to you? I have considered moving to the shore area, there is a brand new super ShopRite there, huge, however, the shore has the land to build this sort of store, NM doesn't. As poster Emily has stated, which units will flood first, the ones on the 1st floor. Guess what.....who usually lives on the the first floor of a building.....the Seniors.
Celeste Scavetta May 10, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Further, it is the residents of New Milford's job right now to continue to point out, on record, each and every one of the items that are deemed negative criteria and NOT inherently beneficial. It’s important to have a strong voice and attendance. Every voice, question, comment needs to be on the record. Each request for the developer to provide our town with experts to be witnesses on traffic, safety, noise, perhaps even COAH and let the developer foot the bill for each and every one. I have always stood against high density development, and still am to this day. I am a concerned parent and homeowner who is well aware of at least three MAJOR vehicular accidents in our town in the past month! Two at the current Shop Rite site, and one only feet away from the current proposed site. I attend as many meetings possible to listen and learn. I would love to see so many more of my neighbors come out to these very important meetings as well. And be prepared to stay there until 11 PM! We cannot allow the smart tactics of high-priced attorneys to delay proceedings to the point that there is no public left sitting in the courtroom to voice their questions or opinions. Everyone cannot make every single special meeting on this Application. So please, I implore you, regardless if you are a senior citizen, homeowner, apartment dweller, student, parent, COME OUT and attend these meetings!
Rick May 10, 2012 at 06:20 PM
It's all about money. As residents, we need to stand united and make it clear now that we will boycott the new Shop Rite if need be. Their new store will be twice the size with half the volume if we are effective. Let them know now that if they build it, we won't come.
Concerned NM Resident May 10, 2012 at 08:32 PM
It might be cheaper in the long run for the residents of NM to purchase the property from United Water! ?????? Why is that not a viable option?
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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