Old Bridge approves affordable housing with disabled veterans in mind

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OLD BRIDGE – The recent approval of 72 units of 100% affordable housing at the intersection of East Greystone Road and Marlboro Road in Old Bridge signifies the township is right on target with its affordable housing plan.

In 2017, township officials approved the township’s 1999 to 2025 Housing Element and Fair Share Housing Plan. The township’s court approved obligation of 3,109 units was worked out through different avenues including providing township-sponsored housing for disabled veterans. The plan was whittled down from 10,870 housing units.

“This is a very important project,” said Christine Nazzaro Cofone, applicant planner for the 72 affordable housing units. “Back in 2017, a court approved a settlement of your housing plan … these 72 units were in your plan.”

Attorney Craig Gianetti, of Day Pitney LLP, Parsippany, appeared before the Old Bridge Township Planning Board on Aug. 6 and presented Vista at Old Bridge LP’s proposal seeking minor subdivision approval of 25.65-acres of land currently owned by the Woodbridge Housing Authority.

The proposal is to subdivide 14.66 acres and construct 72 affordable housing rental apartments in three-story apartment buildings each consisting of 24 bedroom units.

Vista at Old Bridge LP is a single purchaser entity and a subsidiary of Richman Group Development Corp., a multi-family apartment developer specializing in affordable housing and low income tax program applications.

The Planning Board unanimously approved the application.

“I’m glad to see this is coming finally to a reality,” Board Chair Barbara Cannon said.

The units include 12 one-bedroom, 42 two-bedroom and 18 three-bedroom units.

The application also includes a clubhouse with a one-bedroom unit for the supervisor, a tot lot, 152 parking spaces, including six handicap spots, and landscaping and storm water management improvements. Laundry facilities are also located in the clubhouse and after some discussion, the applicants said they will provide laundry facilities for the bottom floor units.

Richard Truslowe, vice president of Richman Group overseeing development in New York and New Jersey, appeared before the board.

“This is an affordable housing project that has soft preferences for veterans and disabled veterans,” he said. “It’s standard housing for families [who] just earn less to average [annual] medium incomes.”

Truslowe added the project also includes a few very low rental units. He explained a soft preference for veterans will occur during the rental screening process where preferences will be made for veterans and veterans with disabilities.

He said the bottom floor units are barrier-free wheelchair accessible units and the upper level units, which are walk up status, can be adapted and adjusted to accessible units if needed.

He said from the start he wanted to offer preferences for veterans and disabled veterans.

“There is no extra money, no benefit to me,” Truslowe said of offering the preference. “I happen to have an interest in veterans. We have done a half dozen projects in New Jersey and all have a special needs cohort whether for homeless, disabled or developmentally disabled.”

The site is located in the R-120 residential zone. The remaining 11 acres on the site will remain with the Woodbridge Housing Authority.

Old Bridge School Business Administrator Joseph Marra and Board of Education President Jill Cali appeared before the board addressing concerns of the amount of school children the units would generate. They noted the elementary school in the area is already at capacity of how many students are allowed in the school building.

“When advertising the apartment complex, it should be noted for people going to apply that their children are not going to be able to go to the closest school to where they are living,” Cali said.

Cofone, applicant planner, said the 72 units are expected to generate 42 school-aged children.

Cannon said the project has been years in the making.

“Having someone provide affordable housing without getting 200 to 300 market rate units, which would provide a lot more kids to the school system, is a real plus for our community,” she said, as well as the consideration for veterans, disabled veterans and their families.