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Jackson council creates two affordable housing zones

JACKSON – The Township Council has adopted two ordinances establishing new zones where affordable housing will be permitted to be constructed. The zones are off Perrineville Road and off North New Prospect Road in Jackson.

Council members took the action June 27.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets regional guidelines. State courts have ruled that municipalities have an obligation to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing.

The first ordinance before the governing body established a Mixed Residential-Affordable Housing 8 zone off Perrineville Road. Single-family homes, two-family homes and multi-family units will be permitted in this zone, according to the ordinance.

During a public hearing on the ordinance, some residents expressed concern that the construction of affordable housing in Jackson will have a negative effect on their property taxes and utility bills.

Council members agreed with some of the sentiments residents expressed and explained their own views regarding affordable housing when it was their turn to vote on a motion to adopt the ordinance.

“While I understand and appreciate the hard work and efforts of our attorneys to renegotiate a reduced settlement for an affordable housing obligation, and I fully understand the possible implications if not passed, I refuse to allow outside entities to control the destiny of or demographics in Jackson,” Councilman Barry Calogero said.

“I will not be swayed by flirtation or alternative outcomes. I am committed to preventing urban sprawl, high density/low-income,” Calogero said before voting no on the motion to adopt the ordinance.

“Nobody likes the affordable housing requirements … nobody is in favor, whether there is a ‘D’ (Democrat) or an ‘R’ (Republican) after their name, nobody likes the fact that these rules are being placed upon us,” Councilman Scott Martin said.

“We need to examine the risk, everything you (residents) are concerned about, Jackson losing its beauty, Jackson turning into a city,” Martin said, before an audience member yelled out, “Jackson turning into Lakewood!”

Responding to that comment, Martin said, “those fears will be realized” in the long term if the council does not take action.

“I am not going to put this town at risk for those lawsuits that will come, not if, but when, and how many,” he said.

Martin said he “regrettably” voted to adopt the ordinance and advance the affordable housing settlement Jackson officials have reached in court.

Councilman Robert Nixon said, “The reality of affordable housing legislation and litigation is one of failure. Congress has failed us, the state Legislature failed us, the court continues to over-reach and tries to find a one-fix solution for towns like Jackson, and then we have the special interests and the builders who continue to try to extort us to build what we do not want to build.

“I really do respect the hard work that went into (reaching an affordable housing settlement), I understand the legal premise it stands behind, the reasoning behind it. It may be in the long term the right thing to do, but for me tonight, I do not feel comfortable with these affordable housing mandates,” Nixon said before voting no on the motion to adopt the ordinance.

Council Vice President Ann Updegrave said a vote to adopt the ordinance did not mean a council member was in full support of proposed affordable housing.

“I understand everybody’s feelings and we all feel the same as everyone in the audience, but as the council has stated, (affordable housing) is a mandate. Federal and state government supersedes local government and we have to follow the rules.

“We have our attorneys, we have our planner, they have told us what is coming down the pike if we do not vote affirmatively for these ordinances,” Updegrave said before she voted to adopt the ordinance.

Before casting the deciding vote, council President Kenneth Bressi said, “This is our obligation, I cannot see gambling with the town. I have been in this town for 42 years. I am elected to do a job in town, to protect this town, to protect my income, my family, my grandkids going to schools here.”

Bressi said that to “gamble” with the possibility of “up to 15,000 to 16,000 homes” being permitted to be constructed as the result of not adopting affordable housing ordinances “would really be the wrong thing to do.”

Bressi’s vote to adopt the ordinance helped it pass, 3-2, and created the affordable housing zone off Perrineville Road.

The second ordinance before the council established a Multifamily Affordable Housing 7 zone off North New Prospect Road. The ordinance was adopted with Bressi, Updegrave and Martin voting yes, and Calogero and Nixon voting no.

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