Hillsborough Township Committee seeks to allow housing on Route 206 parcel

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The Hillsborough Township Committee may take action during its May 28 meeting to create an overlay zone that will permit the construction of up to 118 housing units on property at Route 206 and Andria Avenue.

During its meeting on April 23, the committee unanimously introduced an ordinance to create the special zone.

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The property is at southwest corner of Route 206 and Andria Avenue. Adoption of the ordinance will add a new subsection of mixed-use inclusionary overlay district.

At the time of the ordinance’s introduction, committee members said the purpose of the mixed-use inclusionary overlay district is to provide an incentive for the construction of affordable multifamily housing in Hillsborough’s “Gateway A District” in connection with new and existing commercial uses.

Overlay zoning is defined as a regulatory tool that creates a special zoning district, placed over an existing base zone, which identifies special provisions in addition to those in the underlying base zone. Regulations or incentives are designated  to the overlay district to protect a specific resource or guide development within a special area.

Officials said the standards in place from the ordinance are intended to offer maximum flexibility for site design and selection of dwelling unit types in order to offer a balanced housing pattern that would attract all income and age segments of the community as part of the township’s fair share housing plan for meeting the area’s low and moderate income housing needs.

Deputy Mayor Doug Tomson said the ordinance would help Hillsborough meet its affordable housing mandate and place contingencies on what a developer could build on the property.

“The amendment would add single-use multifamily residential buildings and drive-up restaurants, but only for listed permitted uses and when constructed as part of a mixed use development,” Tomson said. “The amendment would include appropriate design controls for all such uses within the overlay district.”

Tomson said the total number of dwelling units in the district would be capped at 118 units in combination with a minimum of 50,000 square feet of commercial space. He said 24% of the residences would be required to meet affordability standards. The remaining units would be available at market rates.

An inclusionary district is defined as one that provides affordable housing units within a development of market rate housing units.

“The primary purpose of this ordinance is to stimulate the redevelopment of the former Cost Cutters shopping center,” Tomson said. “In addition, the inclusionary requirements would contribute to the township’s efforts to meet its court imposed affordable housing obligation.”

Officials said a minimum of the total number of residential units would be low-and moderate-income units in accordance with applicable affordable housing regulations, there will be no less than 29 low-and moderate-income units provided on the tract regardless of the total number of units constructed.

In addition to accessory uses and structures permitted in the district, officials said garages, storage sheds, maintenance offices, property management offices, and non-commercial community recreational facilities associated with residential communities could be built as well.

Although one of the intended purposes of the ordinance is to enhance the scene around downtown Hillsborough, Committeewoman Olivia Holmes said she believes the committee should work with the developer who has been selected to redevelop the area to come up with a more beneficial site plan for the area.

“The buildings and parking lot of this strip mall have been vacant and an eyesore for the past 10 years,” Holmes said. “I understand we need to build affordable housing in our town because it is mandated by the state and I believe this is a good place to build it.”

Holmes said she that while she concurred that the township should follow through with its affordable housing mandates, she was not in full favor of the developer’s initial plans for the property.

“We are raising the allowable density on these two lots so the developer can build affordable housing and market rate housing, however, the drawing I was shown and what I was told is that the developer is only giving a facelift to the existing strip mall and leaving the parking where it is in front.

“We want to encourage a walkable main street – not a drive-thru main street,” Holmes added.

Holmes noted that at a special meeting where township professionals studied the downtown corridor in regard to the ongoing Route 206 Bypass project’s completion, residents were surveyed and said they wanted to see more aesthetically pleasing features such as bike lanes, public plazas, tree-lined streets, interesting architecture, park benches and more.

Holmes suggested the committee hold off on the ordinance and work with the developer to design a plan that satisfies the company’s needs and would add to the character of Hillsborough.

Tomson explained to Holmes that a motion to not move forward with the ordinance could potentially lead to builder’s remedy lawsuits, and that adopting the ordinance would not necessarily approve any site plans for the property which would have to come before the planning board for discussion.

Following further discussion and public comment, a motion was made and passed by the committee to introduce the overlay zone ordinance and to schedule a public hearing for the committee’s May 28 meeting.

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