Category Archives: COAH
Earlier today I received yet another robo-call from the group calling themselves Concerned Citizens of Middletown.
The content of this robo- call that was left on my answering machine ~1:30 pm, seems to be geared towards what is going on in Lincroft concerning the redevelopment of the AVAYA sight that will consist of 342 units of high density housing if built.
The timing of this latest robo-call seems to have been planned to correspond with the next Middletown Planning Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow night, where according to the agenda for the meeting, approval of the project may be finalized.
Have you heard? Because The Middletown Township Committee failed to fulfill it’s COAH obligations, the Township had to solicit bids to develop housing projects throughout Middletown?
As a result the AVAYA site in Lincroft will become a multi-family housing project that will impact the residents of Lincroft and the Township.
The influx of new residents will have an adverse affect; roads will need to be widened, sewer and water lines will need to be installed and over crowding of local schools will take place, all at a cost to our quality of life.
Paid for by
Concerned Citizens of Middletown.
>With all the hoopla surrounding the redevelopment of the Avaya industrial site in Lincroft which is calling for 342 housing units to be built, I find a resolution on the docket for approval at tonight’s Township Committee meeting in Middletown interesting in it’s timing.
>At the behest of the Township Committee, Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, posted the following letter the Middletown Township website late yesterday, the letter is an attempt to give some background information behind the history of the rezoning of the Avaya property in Lincroft that is a hot-button issue in town and ready to explode. At least three separate citizens groups are now involved and on record as being opposed to the project.
What this letter doesn’t tell residents about is how, much like the infamous “Town Center” project, the Township went to Torsevias (the owners of the property) and pitched this idea to them. The township would never have been able to rezone this property if the owners weren’t on board with it. Promises were made and palms were greased in some way to make this happen, now the Township needs to backpedal before it’s too late.
Unfortunately it may be too late for that already, money has been spent already on the project by the owners, they would want so type of reimbursement for there troubles i’m sure, which will tie this project up in the courts for years at a cost of millions of dollars to the tax payers of Middletown if it doesn’t go through.
And as usual, the Township is blaming Democrats in Trenton for inaction on the issue of COAH. They wont dare point a finger at the Governor for vetoing the COAH bill that was past by the assembly last year. If COAH was on the top of the Governor’s priority list, he would be taking the lead on this issue like he has been while bashing teachers and unions.
But don’t confuse the issues of COAH and this project, the opposition to this redevelopment is not COAH based as the Township wants you to believe. The opposition is opposed to the project based on quality of life issues and concerns such as infrastructure, traffic and the effects of having many more students enroll in area schools.
The Township Committee has asked that I provide a summary of the circumstances surrounding the proposed Four Ponds Development Plan at the former Avaya property, which is part of the Township’s state-mandated Council On Affordable Housing (“COAH”) housing plan.
The Township Committee has many concerns about this proposed project, which is why the Township is currently litigating the COAH’s revised third round rules before the New Jersey Supreme Court. Not only has the Township joined in the League of Municipality’s lawsuit, but the Township also filed its own lawsuit, which was just recently accepted by the Supreme Court. It is unclear, however, when this case will be heard, which could be anywhere from 6 months to a year, or more, from now. In the meantime, the Township is still subject to COAH’s rules, as they existed three years ago.
It is the Township’s belief that we should not be punished by these rules since, we believe there are plenty of affordable housing units, including rental units available throughout the Township. This fact is largely the basis of our legal position. Further, the Township does not have a history of exclusionary zoning that would be in violation of the original Mount Laurel doctrine. Unfortunately, this legal doctrine has evolved into something it was never intended to be, which essentially hands control of much of our zoning over to developers and in some cases the courts.
Making matters worse, the Appellate Court recently invalidated a large portion of the revised third round COAH rules that gave the Township a variety bonus credits for past performance and for allowing the creation of affordable rental housing. Without these extra credits and other mechanisms thrown out by the Court, the Township’s affordable housing obligation could grow significantly higher than it already is. Fortunately, the Township sought and secured a stay from both COAH and the Supreme Court of the Appellate Court’s ruling on this matter. Now, the Supreme Court will decide the ultimate merits of this issue, but the outcome is far from certain, which is why the Township has actively been seeking legislative action that has not been forthcoming. The legislation that has been proposed so far, in most cases would be a giant step backwards, making matters far worse. Fortunately the Governor vetoed the bill that was actually passed by the legislature since it would have increased the Township’s affordable housing obligation possibly two-fold.
As a result, the Township has been forced to zone a number of properties in a way that it would not have otherwise, only to satisfy COAH’s requirements. It is also critical in order to stem what are known as Builder’s Remedy lawsuits, which essentially strip away any local control and allows the courts to order the approval of housing developments. In fact, the Township is currently subject to a challenge by the owners of the Bamm Hollow Country Club. Specifically, since challenging our plans, they have been seeking to construct 1,200 multi-family dwellings that would include at least 240 COAH units upon their 277-acre property. They also have an application pending for 50 homes which the property is currently zoned for, which is also not actively being pursued. That application will not make this litigation go away as they are continuing to seek a development many times that size. We are currently seeking a stay before the Appellate Court in this matter in an effort to try to resolve it through sound planning without facing the prospect of 1,200 more units of housing in Lincroft. The reality of the situation is that if the Avaya property had not been zoned to allow for the development of residential housing two years ago, Bamm Hollow would likely be building 1,200 court-ordered units on its property by now.
These are the unfortunate realities currently faced by the Township until the Legislature or the Courts act appropriately to eliminate these irrational mandates that do nothing but promote poor planning and development while wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I would note, however, that the Avaya property is still also zoned to allow for commercial development, so the Township is not impeding that from taking place should market conditions allow for it. Further, the Township has been encouraging businesses to move into the site along with seeking economic development assistance for prospective tenants from the state.
Simply put, due to legislative inaction, the Township was left with no option but to include Avaya property as part of its housing plan three years ago to allow for residential development. The reality is that the alternative would be far worse for Lincroft and the Township as a whole. We would like to encourage all residents, as many of you have in the past, to write and call Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver who should be held accountable along with the entire State Legislature for failing to act on the Governor’s proposed COAH reforms. With those reforms, there is at least a chance that this project may not have advanced to this point.
Anthony P. Mercantante, P.P. AICP
>For those that were unable to attend the Middletown Planning Board meeting last night don’t fret, I took a few picture and shot an hour’s worth of video from the proceeding.
>Tonight’s 6:30 pm meeting of the Middletown Planning Board should be interesting, at tonight’s meeting plans for the controversial Avaya redevelopment project will be discussed.
Middletown’s planning board will meet Wednesday to hear a proposal that’s got neighbors up in arms and township officials grinding their teeth.
The proposed project, submitted by Four Ponds Associates, calls for the demolition of a large office building vacated by telecom giant Avaya and the construction of 342 residential units on 68 acres on Middletown-Lincroft Road.
For locals, the prospect of adding hundreds of homes to the tract is an unwelcome one, as traffic and safety top the concerns, not to mention a serious disruption to the Lincroft section’s quality of life, they say.
For township officials, the proposal represents “archaic and ridiculous” affordable housing laws imposed by the state. But until changes are made in Trenton, they’re handcuffed, they say.
“We oppose this development and every development we’ve been forced into under the guise of affordable housing regulations,” Mayor Tony Fiore said, “especially when they’re not in the best interest of Middletown. And that’s exactly what’s going on here.”
Currently, the property is zoned for office use but is able to add residential units since the town listed the property in its affordable housing plan, which was revised in 2009, Administrator Anthony Mercantante said. No variances are being sought.
A non-profit advocacy group made up of residents, the Lincroft Village Green Association, has called for the town to rezone the property back to residential single-family or commercial use.
But “We have no authority to simply rezone” the property, Fiore said. “We would be steadfast in doing that. Unfortunately, the legislature and the state assembly has given us no relief.”
Of the 342 units proposed, 68 are said in the builder’s application to satisfy the town’s affordable housing obligation, a murky mandate delivered by the state Council On Affordable Housing – which itself is in limbo, as Governor Chris Christie has recommended eliminating COAH and letting local municipalities decide how much affordable housing is necessary within their boundaries….
Re: Four Ponds Redevelopment Plan
The Lincroft Village Green Association and many of the residents of Lincroft Village are strongly opposed to the Four Ponds Redevelopment plan as is currently proposed. We have serious concerns this large scale housing development will bring negative change to our neighborhoods and adversely affect residents’ safety and quality of life.
Our specific concerns for opposing this development are as follows:
Density and Type of Housing:
The plan proposes to build 270 townhouse and 72 flats, with 68 of the flats being COAH affordable housing rental units. This represents an approximate 16% increase in the number of households in Lincroft Village. This is far too many households for the infrastructure of Lincroft to absorb.
Good planning requires that new construction should be similar in size and character to existing, neighboring homes. The style of homes being built, three story townhouses in clusters of 4, 6 and 8 units, and four 18 unit apartment buildings, is not in keeping with the style of the majority of the homes in Lincroft, which are single family homes on large lots, of 0.5 – 5.0 acres in size. The density and configuration of the proposed Four Ponds Development are more reminiscent of inner city row houses than existing construction in Lincroft. Therefore, this development would have a very negative impact on property values in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The current traffic conditions along CR520 and CR50 make any additional traffic-generating projects in Lincroft completely unacceptable.
• The intersection of CR50 & CR520 is already considered failed because of too much traffic (County Route 520 Corridor Study, 2002).
• Middletown-Lincroft Road is a major route to the following Lincroft establishments: Brookdale Community College (enrollment over 13,000-all commuters), Christian Brothers Academy (enrollment over 900), St. Leo the Great Church and School, Oak Hill Academy, Lincroft Elementary School, Multiple preschools, Lincroft Library, Lincroft business center and professional buildings, Two senior citizen complexes, Four churches, in addition to St. Leo the Great, One county and five township parks, Lincroft Fire and First Aid stations.
• CR50 is a major North-South route for many trash, recycling and construction trucks, and services all of Middletown and towns north.
• Both CR520 and CR50 are major E-W and N-S traffic routes and are used by many to access the GSP (Exit 109) and Red Bank to the east, Holmdel corporate center and residential areas to the west, Monmouth Mall to the south and the remainder of Middletown and other points north.
There is already dangerous cut-through traffic and speeding in surrounding neighborhoods, especially on Turnberry Drive and Leedsville Drive, which will only be worsened by the additional traffic generated by the housing complex, affecting the safety of the residents who walk, bike, and jog and drive on those streets.
The Four Ponds development will bring many additional children to our local schools. Two and three bedroom townhouses will be more likely to have families with school-age children.
The Lincroft Elementary School is already filled to capacity. The building is over 50 years old and every classroom and available space inside is being utilized. Families are drawn to Lincroft for the quality of our public school system. By adding children and overburdening our classrooms and teachers, this will have a negative impact on the excellence of our schools.
Safety – Fire, First Aid, Police:
In closing, as you can undoubtedly see from the above noted points, the Lincroft Village Green Association is extremely concerned, as are the residents who have already contacted us in large numbers, that a development of this size, in this location, would be seriously considered for approval at this time. The impact on the quality of life of current Lincroft residents, the strain on our schools and already diluted resources, and the associated safety concerns, should trump any desire to vote to permit this development.
Consequently, we respectfully request this proposed plan be tabled at the present time, and the current owner be instructed to work with key stakeholders in our community to determine the most appropriate alternative uses of this space. This has simply not taken place to date.
In fact, when this property was rezoned in 2010 to accommodate COAH obligations, the then sitting Township Committee went on record to say they would rezone the site back to either commercial or residential single family homes at the earliest opportunity. We implore you to consider rezoning this property now, and come up with a more thoughtful, rational plan, with more potential for positive impact for Lincroft Village and its residents.
Board of Directors