CRANBURY: Affordable housing still a top priority for township

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By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – The Township Committee discussed its top priority – the future of affordable housing – and updated the public on a recent court appearance during its Monday night’s meeting.
To that end, the committee voted unanimously to adopt a resolution authorizing the Planning Board to undertake a preliminary investigation to determine whether the proposed study area should be declared an Area In Need of Redevelopment (AINR) during Monday night’s meeting.
“We’ve gone into contract with a property, Paul’s Auto (Repair), on Route 130 and we are going to be acquiring as part of our affordable housing obligation,” said Mayor Dan Mulligan.
He said it’s a perfect site for a number of reasons, including the fact that the site is adjacent to affordable housing the township has in Cranbury at Bennett Place.
“It would make sense in that regard,” said Mayor Mulligan. “We are going to go out and get federal tax funding. The site actually speaks very well to being able to go out and get that type funding to help pay for the project.”
He said the purchase is integral to the township’s affordable housing plan and meeting its obligation for this round.
Committeeman David Cook said that it is also within the village and that is also a big plus.
“It’s inclusive in that respect and it’s next to Village Park so it’ll have pedestrian accessibility to a great area for recreation and the lake,” he said.
Mr. Cook added that the property would also have access to Route 130 as well allow for an easy ingress and egress there.
“It hits a number of key components that will allow for the federal funding as the mayor had mentioned, so a lot of the costs will be taken out of Cranbury and will be handled by another entity,” said Mr. Cook.
“What we’re building on that site, as well as the obligation for this round, will have really no impact on our school, which I think is fantastic,” said Mayor Mulligan. “So we couldn’t ask for more with what we’re doing with this round of affordable housing, particularly this site,” he said.
After an initial closed session when committee members addressed affordable housing issues, the mayor revealed that the township had been in court that day.“I will briefly touch on affordable housing,” said Mayor Mulligan, during his report. “We were in (Middlesex County) court today.”
He said that he, Committeeman David Cook and Township Administrator Denise Marabello and their attorney hadn’t yet had a full conversation about the court issue as a committee.
“We are going to discuss that further after the regular meeting,” he said. “What I will say is I do believe coming out of it was a positive day for Cranbury. The entire committee has to feel comfortable with the outcome.”
The mayor on his Facebook page earlier that morning and made the statement that, “When I joined the Cranbury Township Committee and then took the role of Mayor this year, I never imagined I could or would end up in court on behalf of our town.”
Mayor Mulligan and fellow committee member Mr. Cook were in court on behalf of Cranbury Township.
“We will be advocating and defending our common sense affordable housing plan in court as we defend our community against greedy land owners here in town and developers working with them who want to change our way of life,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
The following day, Mayor Mulligan made a follow-up statement.
“We made our case and averted an unthinkable burden that would have been placed on our town and frankly would have changed Cranbury as we know it,” he said. “We’re not 100 percent done. We still have other possible challenges to overcome, however, overall we are looking good.”
Mayor Mulligan said that the township still has another hearing in the future to finalize its plans.
“We will then hold a town meeting to update everyone on the outcome of these rulings,” he said. “This is, and still continues to be, the Cranbury Township Committee’s No. 1 priority and that is protecting and preserving Cranbury now and for the future.”
He said finally, as he looks back on the last many months and what the township has been through as it navigates affordable housing in New Jersey, a quote from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia comes to mind: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

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