2009-05-13 / Front Page

Marlboro sets record for COAH objectors

Individuals and companies state their complaints with affordable housing plan
BY REBECCA MORTON Staff Writer

Marlboro has made history with the largest number of objectors to an affordable housing plan in the history of New Jersey.

Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik recently told members of the Township Council that the 13 individuals and/or entities who have filed objections to Marlboro's affordable housing plan is the largest number in state history.

The objectors filed their notices after Marlboro officials submitted a petition to the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) seeking substantive certification of the township's affordable housing plan.

Obtaining substantive certification would mean COAH deems Marlboro to be in compliance with affordable housing regulations. Substantive certification would provide immunity from so-called builders remedy lawsuits that could add unplanned housing to the municipality.

At their April 30 meeting, council members were asked to pass a resolution appointing mediation representatives.

Included on the mediation team is Councilman Frank LaRocca, Planning Board Chairman Larry Josephs, Marlboro's affordable housing counsel Kenneth W. Biedzynski, and township planners Susan S. Gruel and Fred Heyer.

According to the resolution, LaRocca is authorized to execute any written agreement reached during the mediation sessions on behalf of Marlboro.

Marlboro is facing an obligation of providing 1,673 affordable housing units from COAH for three rounds dating back to 1987. The first two rounds of New Jersey's affordable housing regulations ran from 1987-99.

According to COAH, Marlboro had an obligation to provide 1,019 affordable housing units for the first two rounds and is faced with a projected growth share obligation of 654 affordable housing units from 2004-18.

Affordable housing units are sold or rented at below-market rates to people whose income meets regional guidelines established by COAH.

Even though township officials are planning for affordable housing, it is not certain if all of the units will be built. The construction of the affordable housing units will be tied to the construction of market rate houses and commercial development that takes place in Marlboro between 2004 and 2018.

The plan Marlboro submitted to COAH included prior round projects such as Northpointe, a 384-unit development off Nolan Road; and the Bluh and Batelli property on Tennent Road, known as Wildflower, which recently received preliminary site plan approval from the Planning Board.

Wildflower will have 200 market rate senior citizen housing units and 50 affordable rental units for people of all ages. Also included among the prior round plans is the Entron property on Route 79, where 200 market rate units have been supplied along with 50 affordable housing units.

The prior round also contains a project labeled Weitz Mediated Sites 9A and 9B. According to the COAH plan, in 2000 developer Michael Weitz reached a mediated settlement agreement for rezoning the properties. Site 9A, at Greenwood and Texas roads, has been proposed to contain 126 market rate senior citizen units. Site 9B, along Texas Road just south of Wooleytown Road, will contain 72 affordable family rental units.

To make up the affordable housing units required by the third round of COAH, the township sought 100 percent affordable housing options in an attempt to try and decrease the amount of building that would occur in Marlboro.

Those proposed projects include a possible 176-unit affordable family rental project on property along Ticetown Road across from Provincial Drive, and a 92-unit senior citizen rental affordable housing project to take over the Marlboro Motor Lodge on Route 9 south.

Also included is a proposed Sunrise assisted living facility on Route 520 near Route 9. This potential development proposes that 12 of its apartments will be designated for low-income and moderate-income individuals.

Marlboro officials are hoping that credits from a longstanding regional contribution agreement (RCA) with Trenton will be allowed to be credited toward the township's affordable housing obligation.

If the RCA with Trenton is not permitted, officials have previously stated that two more affordable housing projects are being planned for in Marlboro. One proposal would include about 25 family rentals for low- and moderate-income households and 50 supportive/special needs affordable housing units for multiple sclerosis patients. No location for that project has been identified. Another project has no identified developer or location at the moment, but could contain about 115 affordable housing units.

In March, a crowd of nearly 400 residents came out to protest the proposed affordable housing project on Ticetown Road.

The list of objectors to Marlboro's affordable housing plan includes the Concerned Citizens of Morganville Inc., represented by attorney Gary E. Fox. According to documents filed with the township clerk, the group, mainly consisting of homeowners, is objecting to the Ticetown Road site and the Weitz mediated parcels because of the land's suitability, potential environmental issues and traffic problems.

In its objection the group pointed to many parcels of land along Route 9, Route 18, Route 34, Route 79 and Route 520 that are currently undeveloped. The group states that Marlboro is ignoring undeveloped commercial property that could be used for affordable housing, as well as ignoring both the Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital, Route 520, and the Marlboro Airport property, Route 79.

The Marlboro State Psychiatric Hospital is owned by the state.

The airport property is owned by Marlboro Holdings, which also filed an objection to the COAH plan.

Marlboro Holdings, represented by attorney Michael J. Vitiello, filed objections to the plan stating that the township failed to provide realistic opportunities for affordable housing. The objection points to sites which contain environmental constraints and to the Marlboro Motor Lodge, which is identified by Marlboro Holdings as an incompatible use.

In turn, Marlboro Holdings put forth the airport property to be included in the COAH plan. The 52-acre property has access to Route 79 and Harbor Road. In the official objection, the group said that although 20 to 30 percent of the former airport land is comprised of wetlands, the property could support between 45 and 55 affordable housing units.

Also filing an objection was Michael Weitz under his company Windridge Manor, LLC. In the objection Weitz calls the Ticetown Road affordable housing proposal "a totally inappropriate location from both an environmental and traffic safety viewpoint."

Weitz also presented objections to the proposed affordable housing projects which are left without a location. Another objection was presented to the Marlboro Motor Lodge project, posing the question, "Why relinquish a small Route 9 commercial location as a potential ratable?"

Weitz proposed his development of Windridge Manor for the COAH plan. The property in question is an 18-acre site on the northbound side of Route 79, across from the Frank Defino Central School. According to documentation filed with the township clerk, Weitz proposed building 148 homes at the site, 30 of which would be affordable housing units.

Residents Michael and Maureen Miller, of Bernadette Road, also presented formal objections to Marlboro's COAH plan. The Millers challenged the fitness of the plan's selected site locations and the methods used to satisfy the third round and prior round obligations. The majority of their objections to the plan pertains to the Ticetown Road project and states that the 100 percent affordable housing development would create an anomaly in that proposed area of the township.

The Millers also state that Marlboro officials failed to address the need for funding the public preschool program which may be a result of having low-income students living in the community. Also cited among the Millers' objections is that the Ticetown Road property is in a location that is without access to public transportation or along pedestrian friendly roads.

Morgan Woods at Marlboro (which has not yet been constructed), represented by attorney Robert Muñoz, also filed objections against the Ticetown Road property due to potential environmental issues. Morgan Woods at Marlboro owns property 600 feet from the proposed Ticetown Road affordable housing site. The developer put forth the option of including Morgan Woods at Marlboro in the COAH plan.

According to the objection papers, Morgan Woods at Marlboro proposes between 300 and 400 rentals on Ticetown Road with about 25 percent set aside for affordable housing use on the 60-acre property.

The Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, was also among the 13 objectors to Marlboro's plan. The group objected on the basis that the township did not document a realistic opportunity for affordable housing by simply promising to find future sites. The objector also called the inclusion of the 332- unit RCA with Trenton inappropriate since RCAs have been abolished by state law and noted that Marlboro has failed to fulfill a 13 percent very-low income requirement for affordable housing.

With that 13 percent very-low income requirement is a stipulation that 50 percent of those units be for families, according to the group's objections. The Fair Share Housing Center also stated that Marlboro's plan includes more than the 25 percent age-restricted housing that is allowed.

Ashbel Associates LLC, Pallu Associates LLC, Gihon Associates LLC, Great River Corp. and Elon Associates LLC, all owners of property in Marlboro, filed their objections together. The groups state in objection papers that they have been trying since the mid-1990s to help with Marlboro's COAH obligation. They had similar objections toward the suitability of sites included in Marlboro's plan and offered their land instead.

Ashbel Associates owns about 65 acres on Greenwood and Texas roads. Pallu, Gihon and Great River collectively own and are attempting to develop 73 acres on Texas Road and Falson Lane, according to the objection papers. Elon Associates owns nine acres at Tennent Road and Route 520, backing up to Route 18, directly opposite the Alexander Woods housing development. Elon Associates also owns 12 acres on Union Hill Road across from the Union Hill Park.

Tennent Acres LLC also filed an objection to Marlboro's affordable housing plan, citing that the plan fails to consider other sites or land owners who have expressed a commitment to provide affordable housing. The property on the former Smith farm on Tennent Road between Union Hill Road and Church Lane is suggested to be used and would contain 216 apartments in six threestory buildings.

Amboy Industries LLC filed similar objections, including the use of contaminated sites in the affordable housing plan. Amboy Industries proposed using its 23 acres on Amboy Road in the Industrial Office and Research zone for affordable housing.

Although its property is contaminated, Amboy Industries stated that preliminary investigation work pertaining to the contaminated soil has already begun. It was noted that 11 acres of the land is developable due to wetlands constraints. It was suggested that between 200 and 225 apartments be built with a set-aside of 20 percent for affordable rentals or 25 percent if the affordable units would be sold.

Fieldcrest Holdings LLC also objected to the properties included in Marlboro's plan. The owner suggested property on Route 79, formally Sunny Acres. Fieldcrest Holdings has 18 acres of constraint-free land it reported in the objection. A plan for about 16 dwelling units per acre and a retail village that world occupy the portion of land closest to Route 79 was proposed. The land is in the C-5 Community Commercial District II. The group is willing to set aside 20 percent for affordable rentals or 25 percent for affordable sale units.

Also filing an objection to Marlboro's affordable housing plan was American Properties LLC, along with Kenneth Stattel, William Stattel and Robert E. Stattel. Their objection includes their assertion that the plan relies on agreements with entities that have not yet been secured, including the Marlboro Motor Lodge housing plan. They also state that the plan as presented fails to address Marlboro's share of rehabilitating substandard units. The objectors are seeking realistic inclusionary rezoning for mixed-use developments, including the 48- acre Stattel farm at Route 79 and Route 520.

Spectrum Developers also filed an objection to Marlboro's COAH plan. Evan Podel, the vice president of planning for Spectrum Developers, objected to the unidentified affordable housing project of 115 units and to the project which includes housing for individuals with multiple sclerosis since no information is provided on either entity.

Spectrum Developers is the owner of seven acres on Wicker Place and is proposing 17 units, including four family rentals.

Among the objections put forth by Marlboro Affordable LP was that the proposed Sunrise assisted living facility has not yet received a proper variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Marlboro Affordable LP also states that the plan has to many age-restricted units. It states that 94 such units are allowed and that Marlboro plans for 92, but then plans for an additional 12 units at the Sunrise assisted living facility. That would be a total of 104 age-restricted units.

Marlboro Affordable LP owns 24 acres with frontage on Texas Road and said it would be willing to set aside 20 percent of the property for housing for individuals with low and moderate incomes if zoned at a density of 13 units per acre.

With the objections filed, COAH's executive director will review the objections to determine their completeness and validity. The executive director will then notify the objector that the objection is complete and valid and that the objector is permitted to participate in COAH's administrative process beginning with mediation.

Objections that are determined to be incomplete or invalid will be returned to the objector who will have 14 days to correct deficiencies and resubmit them. If the objections are not resubmitted within 14 days, the executive director will consider the objections to be withdrawn. The municipality will then submit a written response to all items delineated in each objector's objection.

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