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Hillsborough Planning Board signs off on Sherman Redevelopment Plan

Neil Julian, the acting chairman of the Hillsborough Township Planning Board, called for a review of the draft Sherman Redevelopment Plan at a board meeting earlier this year.

Municipal officials said that prior to adopting the plan, the Township Committee was required by the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) to refer the plan to the Planning Board for its consideration and comment.

Officials said the board may identify any provisions of the redevelopment plan that are inconsistent with the township’s master plan and make recommendations concerning those inconsistencies and any other matters the board deems appropriate.

At the meeting, which was held Feb. 28, officials said the purpose of the Sherman Redevelopment Plan was to establish new land use standards for what is known as the Sherman Tract off Camplain Road.

The property up for discussion is in a rehabilitation area to which the redevelopment plan refers. Officials explained there is a 65-acre tract that was purchased by the township in 2018 for the construction of affordable housing units, in an effort to meet Hillsborough’s court-imposed affordable housing obligation.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

Officials said the redevelopment plan establishes the standards under which the housing would be developed. In accordance with the LRHL, officials said the tract was designated as an area in need of rehabilitation by the Township Committee in July 2018. According to officials, that action established the basis for the adoption of the redevelopment plan.

Officials said the goals of the redevelopment plan are to allow for the creative and flexible transformation of an underused tract into a productive and stabilizing development that will complement the surrounding residential neighborhoods and directly contribute to the production of affordable housing. Right now, the area is zoned for industrial uses, according to municipal officials.

Municipal officials noted in the redevelopment investigation that in the established rehabilitation area there have been a number of proposals over the years, but none have been built to date.

Officials said the current objectives for the rehabilitation area are to: provide parcels of land of sufficient size and dimension to enable an orderly arrangement of new land uses; create land use and building requirements specific to the rehabilitation area that are sensitive to environmental features, particularly those associated with the Royce Brook and nearby residential uses; and curtail the encroachment of non-residential uses into the immediate neighborhood.

The Sherman property is framed by residential uses along Camplain Road and South 20th Street. This plan would prevent any industrial incursions into the residential neighborhood and require that all of the units constructed on the site meet low and moderate income affordability requirements.

Officials said the plan divides the Sherman property into two parcels, “A” and “B.”

Parcel “A,” near Camplain Road and South 20th Street, calls for development consistent with the surrounding residential district. The 3-acre parcel is zoned residential, not industrial, and the plan leaves the residential zoning in place.

Parcel “B” is 62 acres and is the primary focus of the redevelopment plan. The plan calls for the development of multi-family housing consisting of approximately 176 units, at no more than eight units per building.

According to the project’s planning director, David Maski, Hillsborough officials adopted a Housing Plan Element and Fair Share Plan in 2010 that was in compliance with the New Jersey Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) third round rules.

Since then, COAH has been dissolved and the courts have taken full jurisdiction over the state’s affordable housing process.

Municipal officials are anticipating the adoption of a new housing plan by the end of 2019. It is expected the Sherman property will be an integral part of the housing plan and that the redevelopment plan will serve to implement the housing plan and the master plan.

When asked by board members to clarify the number of units in the development, Maski said there would be 176 units, with no more than eight units per buildings; some buildings may have fewer units, but all of the units would be affordable housing.

Officials said one or two redevelopers may be involved with the construction plan.

Officials said if the Planning Board decided the redevelopment plan was consistent with the master plan, and accepted it as written, the developer would report back to the Township Committee that the board had reviewed the plan and recommended its adoption by the committee.

The ordinance for the redevelopment plan was introduced in January.

The next step would be naming a redeveloper. Under the redevelopment law, officials said a parcel cannot be redeveloped within a redevelopment area or an area in need of rehabilitation unless there is an certified redeveloper named.

Officials said the Township Committee would enter into a redevelopment agreement which would lay out even more detail regarding what would be required and how it would be financed, as well as other contingencies. The redeveloper would then come before the Planning Board with a site plan showing the details as reflected in the redevelopment plan.

A motion was made and passed to send the Sherman Redevelopment Plan to the Township Committee, as written, for consideration and adoption.

The ordinance for the redevelopment plan was unanimously adopted at a committee meeting on March 13.

At the March meeting, Hillsborough Mayor Frank DelCore said the ordinance did not officially approve immediate development action to be taken, but rather to establish land use standards for the property.

“This redevelopment plan establishes the land use standards under which that housing would be developed,” DelCore said. “To be clear, there is no site plan for this tract yet, so we are not approving any formal site plan. It is simply the standards under which the redevelopment can continue.”

Deputy Mayor Douglas Tomson voted to adopt the ordinance, but noted that ongoing affordable housing projects throughout the state could pose a threat to open space in Hillsborough and other towns.

“If we get some action from our Legislature that can actually prevent the addition of so many affordable housing units here in Hillsborough that had just taken away from our open space in town, we would greatly appreciate it,” Tomson said. “I think they have to act quickly because there is more of this coming for every town in New Jersey.”

DelCore explained that because the redevelopment plan follows suit with a state mandated obligation for the township to provide a certain number of affordable housing units, any opposition toward redevelopment such as this could have repercussions for the municipality and homeowners.

“It is one of those items we continue to be challenged with,” DelCore said. “The mandates are significant, not only for us, but for each municipality in the state. There are repercussions for the township and the residents if we don’t meet those obligations, so we have to try to work with a plan that will help us meet those mandated requirements.”

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