HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP: Woodmont Properties to redevelop Federal City Road property

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Lea Kahn, Staff Writer
With the adoption of a redevelopment plan for the former Oasis garden and farm center last week, the Hopewell Township Committee has cleared the way for potential development on the 22-acre property on Federal City Road.
The township committee’s action would allow the property to be developed for about 300 units, of which about 48 units would be set aside for very low-, low- and moderate-income households. The plan is part of the settlement agreement reached between Hopewell Township and the Fair Share Housing Center, which has sued municipalities to provide affordable housing.
Woodmont Properties has been identified as the re-developer of the property on Federal City Road, near the Hopewell Township-Lawrence Township border. The developer is based in Fairfield, N.J. An application may be submitted early next year.
At an earlier township committee meeting, Stephen Santola, executive vice president and general counsel for Wood Properties, outlined the company’s history and its vision for the property.
Woodmont Properties traces its origin to 1963, when it began building single-family homes, Santola said. In the 1990s, it branched out into developing multifamily projects.
The company now owns or manages 2,000 “luxury” apartment homes in 12 communities – from Morristown to Red Bank, South Amboy, Cranford and Saddle River, Santola said. It does not use “off the shelf” plans, but works with host communities to include the materials and amenities that the towns want, he said.
Addressing concerns about the number of school children that may live in the new apartments, Santola pointed to Woodmont Properties’ 163-unit development in Cranford,. There was one school-aged child for every 11 market-rate rental units and one school-aged child for every one-and-a-half affordable units, he said.
Santola said that many of the company’s tenants could afford to buy a home, but they choose to rent instead. Sometimes, it’s a couple that has downsized and sold the family home, and needs time to ponder the next step. There are young couples, too, that are just starting out.
“You won’t see a lot of school children, but you will see (baby) strollers. They are starting out here and it is really exciting,” he said.
Santola also reassured township committee that the casual observer would not be able to pick out the affordable units from the market-rate units. The affordable units will be interspersed among the market-rate units, and every resident will have access to the amenities.
“We are here to provide housing,” Santola said.