Ordinance hearing on multi-family housing overlay district to come back to committee

Courtesy photo

A public hearing for an ordinance that proposes to amend a land use and development law is set to continue at the next Hillsborough Township Committee meeting.

After a lengthy public hearing at an Oct. 22 township committee meeting on Ordinance 2019­-20, which proposes to amend a land use and development law to allow multifamily inclusionary overlay districts in I­-1, I­-2 and I­-3 light industrial districts, a motion to continue the hearing at the Nov. 12 meeting was made and approved by the committee.

If approved, the ordinance would assist the municipality to meet its affordable housing obligation by allowing multifamily overlay districts on land parcels originally zoned for light industry. According to the ordinance, which was introduced at a Sept. 24 committee meeting, the purpose of the overlay district is to provide an incentive for the construction of affordable multifamily housing in the I-3 district.

Municipal officials said the standards are intended to offer maximum flexibility for site design and selection of dwelling unit types in order to offer a balanced housing pattern attractive to all income and age segments of the community as part of the township’s fair share housing plan for meeting the region’s low and moderate-income housing needs.

“Hillsborough Township, as is the case with all municipalities in New Jersey, has a requirement to meet a state-mandated affordable housing obligation,” Hillsborough Township Mayor Frank DelCore said. “We are currently in the process of negotiating our final settlement with the courts, and this project is one of the projects that will allow us to meet those obligations.”

Officials explained that the ordinance would permit the construction of a multifamily residential development that would be capped at 96 total units, 23 of which (24% of the units) would be aimed to meet affordable housing standards.

Some of the requirements in the overlay district would include a minimum lot size of 13 acres; a maximum impervious surface coverage limited to 30% of the entire tract; a maximum building height of 45 feet (or three stories); no less than 40% of the tract must be devoted to open space and conservation areas; and there will be a minimum buffer requirement of 100 feet from any residential district.

Permitted accessory uses in the overlay district would include garages, storage sheds, maintenance offices, property management offices, and non-commercial community, as well as recreational facilities associated with residential communities and other uses customarily incidental or accessory to a multifamily residential community.

Required open space may include natural areas such as forests, fields, flood hazard areas, watercourses, water bodies, stream corridors, wetland areas, wetland buffer areas and detention basins. No land disturbance, improvements, structures, and/or installations of any kind shall be permitted within the required open space.

Although multiple residents and local groups at the meeting raised concerns with potential development on the site in regards to traffic, stormwater runoff and access to Route 206 in proximity to the site, DelCore explained that the ordinance does not directly handle any issues in regards to preliminary and final site plans nor how that would affect nearby residents or businesses.

“What we’re doing tonight is simply making some of the amendments to the existing zoning that would make some of what we are looking at from an affordable housing perspective, permissible,” DelCore said. “It is not the site plan; it is not the formal plan that would be laid out. That would have to go back to the planning board, and be fully outlined and delineated for that purpose.”

After approximately two hours of discussion between the committee members and public, Hillsborough Township Deputy Mayor Doug Tomson made a motion to keep the public comment portion of the meeting open whilst deferring a decision on approval or denial of the ordinance to the Nov. 12 meeting. The motion from Tomson was unanimously approved by the committee.

During the roll call for a vote to defer the ordinance hearing, Tomson expressed his stance on the matter of the township’s affordable housing situation.

“To be very clear, this is not a republican or democrat issue on affordable housing. This is now an issue of what’s left of the Garden State,” Tomson said. “We are quickly losing the identity of towns like Hillsborough because of this affordable housing requirement.

“There is a need for affordable housing in this state, to be crystal clear. When nurses and teachers can’t afford to live in communities they work in, it’s a travesty. However, being required to build 2,500 units of affordable housing or 10,000 units altogether is a travesty, and we have to address it,” Tomson said.

The next township committee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 at Hillsborough Township Municipal Complex’s Peter J. Biondi Building located on 379 South Branch Road, Hillsborough. Regular session meetings begin at 7:30 p.m.