Middletown Withdraws from Affordable Housing Proceedings

first_imgCampisi called the township’s actions “discouraging” and said the decisions not to include affordable units in those developments was in direct violation of the municipality’s state-certified plans. Fair Share Housing Center spokesperson Anthony Campisi said Middletown Township’s history is not one of inclusion. Mercantante said the threat is theoretical and the township has had success navigating any such lawsuits in the past. “We’ll address any of those on a case-by-case basis if we have to. Our record is strong,” he said. The decision to withdraw from the proceedings could leave Middletown susceptible to builder’s remedy lawsuits, in which a developer proposes a housing project in a town that has not reached a settlement agreement with the state. Though details about the settlement proceedings could not be disclosed, Mercantante said the Fair Share Housing Center wanted to stake Middletown to “hundreds of more units” as part of an ongoing third round of obligations. As for Four Ponds, Mercantante said the proposal came before the planning board at a time when COAH was disbanded by the state. “Few towns in New Jersey are as committed to excluding working class residents as Middletown. This is a town that consistently fails to fulfill promises and instead permits large-scale developments without any affordable units included,” Campisi said, citing a 180-unit development at the former Bamm Hollow Country Club and another 228-unit development in Four Ponds at Lincroft. Since 2008, 350 new affordable units were issued certificates of occupancy. That equates to 31 percent of 1,119 total residential units issued certificates in that period. Mercantante said the Bamm Hollow project was scaled back dramatically from an initial proposal of about 1,200 units to the 180 on site today. The site plan was submitted when New Jersey’s state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) still existed. MIDDLETOWN – In a bold move, township officials are pushing back against state-mandated affordable housing obligations they say are unreasonable and unrealistic. According to township administrator Anthony P. Mercantante, last week township attorney Brian Nelson was directed to apply for an order of dismissal in Middletown’s ongoing New Jersey Superior Court proceedings, which began in July 2015. center_img “At the time, we alreadyhad a COAH-certified planthat did not include BammHollow. We didn’t need toinclude it in our plan. Ourobligation had already beenmet,” Mercantante said. “Long before I was on the township committee our governing body and administration have worked in good faith with the Fair Share Housing Committee to ensure Middletown continued its record as a socioeconomically diverse community. We thought we were in good standing moving forward, but we came to a stonewall and can’t operate in good faith any longer,” Perry said. He noted the settlement included a stipulation that for each one of the homes built at the former country club, an annual contribution is made to the municipality’s affordable housing trust fund, which he said is used to create other opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents and families. “Nearly 300 towns across the state have housing settlements in place or being approved. We’re not asking Middletown to do anything special. We’re asking them to follow the law. And we’ll be monitoring the situation very closely to see if any litigation arises as a result of the withdrawal,” Campisi said. “COAH disappeared and we had no idea what the future of affordable housing would be. So we decided not to include affordable housing in that development and ensured it was included in future developments,” Mercantante said. Mayor Tony Perry said the obligations proposed by the Fair Share Housing Center were “unreasonable.” The proceedings were led by the Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit organization founded in 1975 to defend the rights of New Jersey residents against exclusionary municipal zoning practices. According to Mercantante, since 1999 the township has created 605 affordable units in various forms of housing types, including condominiums, detached single-family homes, rental apartments, senior housing and accessory apartments. Additionally, four more development projects, including the residential tract of the Village 35 project – which calls for 280 luxury townhomes and 70 affordable units in three separate apartment buildings – call for the construction of affordable units.last_img

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