SAYREVILLE – Borough officials are continuing to seek a plan in order to meet Sayreville’s affordable housing obligations.
On Aug. 2, the Planning Board was scheduled to discuss the borough’s housing plan, according to Borough Council President Daniel Buchanan during a July 24 council meeting. If the plan is approved by the board, it will appear before the Borough Council on Aug. 21.
Additionally, the Sayreville Economic and Redevelopment Agency (SERA) will create its own housing plan for the borough and act as an intervener in Sayreville’s ongoing effort to have the number of affordable units required through court order. SERA’s role in the housing issue was announced by Chairman Michael D’Addio at the July 24 meeting.
Sayreville is required to have 785 affordable units, according to borough officials.
Four ordinances intended to assist Sayreville in meeting its affordable housing obligations previously appeared before the council in May and June, but no action was taken on them.
The plan presented in the ordinances was a source of concern for residents in part because the affordable units would be created through inclusionary zoning. In inclusionary zoning, 15 percent of the units in a market-rate housing project are designated as affordable, meaning that the projects will build additional market-rate units apart from the required affordable units.
“The Planning Board didn’t tell you [the council] that you had to build seven market rate houses to get to [785 affordable units],” D’Addio said at the July 24 meeting. “That’s not what you approved and that’s not in your ordinance.”
According to Borough Planner John Leoncavallo, 803 market-rate units with 141 affordable units are planned to be built in the borough. This number did not include The Pointe, an ongoing $2.2 billion retail/mixed-use project.
One of the ordinances would have permitted projects providing affordable housing to be included in their zone, which also raised concern from residents.
The projects, according to the ordinance, are Camelot at Sayreville I, which will have 173 units (26 affordable); Camelot at Sayreville II, which will have 300 units (45 affordable); Cross Avenue/National Lead Site, which will have 163 units (24 affordable); and River Road Development Site, which will have 160 units (24 affordable).
Residents voiced their opposition to the plan proposed at the June meeting, citing potential impacts on the borough’s school district, traffic, taxes, open space and population density, among other issues. While many voiced support of affordable housing, the residents requested the council to oppose Sayreville’s current obligations in court.
Council members Victoria Kilpatrick, Ricci Melendez and Mary Novak shared the residents’ opposition to the plan, stating that they intended to vote “no” on the adoption of the ordinances.
To further assist the borough in meeting affordable housing regulations, the council hired Susan Gruel as a review planner for Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations at a fee not to exceed $10,000 in June.
Councilman Steven Grillo, who had voted against hiring Gruel, raised concerns at the July 24 meeting that she had not contacted him about her affordable housing plan since her hiring.
Kilpatrick replied that she has had several conversations with Gruel over affordable housing and emphasized that Gruel’s hiring was necessary, citing criticisms she had with prior action taken on affordable housing plans in the borough. As stated by Kilpatrick, information in the plans were not disclosed to the council members until they were asked to vote on them and the plans were continuously changing.
“I couldn’t do my job [as an elected official] as I should have been able to because I was not given the facts,” she said. “Every other minute, this plan is changing and we’re supposed to turn around up here as elected official[s] and say we support this? There [are] different sites every day.
“Susan Gruel had to come in because somebody had to slow this down. I’m sorry, but our professionals did not do their due diligence in guiding you [the residents] and guiding us in making informed decisions. But now we are informed.”
In response, Grillo pointed out that Gruel had not spoken to other members of the council. When asked by Grillo, three council members present at the meeting – Buchanan, Novak and Pat Lembo – acknowledged that they had not been speaking with Gruel since she was hired. Melendez was absent from the meeting.
“I thought that the person we pay to do this work would be actively engaging the governing body that has to approve the plan,” Grillo said. “I feel there are certain people who get certain information through certain channels. I have not been contacted [and] other members have just admitted they haven’t been contacted. I don’t think there is anything open and transparent. You, the taxpayers, have paid $10,000 to a planner who has never engaged myself or [other council members].”
Buchanan reasoned that due to the extent of the work Gruel was tasked with, he did not expect her to reach out to him. He suggested that Grillo contact Borough Attorney Michael DuPont if he wanted information on Gruel’s housing plan.
Grillo contended that as a consultant, Gruel should be reaching out to the council instead of the council having to reach out to her.
Contact Matthew Sockol at firstname.lastname@example.org.