The Hillsborough Township Committee passed legislation at a recent meeting to amend a land use and development law.
The township committee unanimously made a motion to approve and passed an ordinance at a Dec. 10 meeting to amend Chapter 188 “Land Use and Development,” “Districts & Standards,” Section 188106 “I1, I2, I3 Light Industrial Districts” of the township code.
Municipal officials reported that the standards set forth in 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 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.
Officials said that site plans that would propose development on the properties addressed in the ordinance would have to come before the Hillsborough Township Planning Board first for a formal review and public hearing.
Although this particular ordinance was introduced in September, various concerns with potential development of these properties raised by residents caused officials to take additional time to review steps that could possibly present a potential strategy to stymie the affects of development in these areas.
Although Hillsborough Township Mayor Frank DelCore said at the meeting that the municipality made an effort to look into alternative efforts to potentially reduce the impacts of this ordinance, the municipality received an order to pass this ordinance in risk of potential builder’s remedy lawsuits.
“We have held this over because we were working to try and figure out if there was another resolution or scenario to implement in this zone, on this property, related to our affordable housing plan that would provide some relief and satisfaction to the residents, but also ensure that were able to move forward with our affordable housing plan,” DelCore said. “A couple weeks ago, we had a case management conference… the judge ordered that we needed to move forward with the approval of this zone as part of the plan and that failure to do so by our next meeting would run us the risk of losing our immunity against all of our other affordable housing cases currently moving forward.”
Officials said the purpose of the multifamily inclusionary overlay district is to provide an incentive for the construction of affordable multifamily housing in the I-3 District. 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, according to officials.
According to the ordinance, this overlay district must be planned and developed as a single tract to qualify for the overlay option. A “tract” is defined as an area of land comprised of one or more adjacent lots which together have sufficient dimension and area to make one parcel of land meeting the requirements of this section for the uses intended.
The ordinance requires a minimum of 24% of the total number of residential units to be designate as low-and moderate-income units in accordance with affordable housing regulations and a minimum of 13% of the total low and moderate-income units to be affordable to very low-income households (30% or less of median income). The ordinance requires that no less than 23 low-and moderate-income units provided on the tract regardless of the total number of units constructed.
Permitted principal uses in the overlay district include multifamily residential buildings for the total number of dwelling units on the tract to not exceed 96 units. Permitted accessory uses in the overlay district also include garages; storage sheds; maintenance offices; property management offices; and non-commercial community recreational facilities associated with residential communities.
Tract requirements per the ordinance require a minimum tract size of 13 acres with yard and bulk requirements for multifamily buildings; a minimum lot size of 13 acres; minimum lot frontage of 300 feet on Campus Drive; a minimum building setback of 12 feet from the closest point of the building to the nearest edge of the curb along all internal streets; a maximum total impervious coverage (entire tract) of 30%; a maximum building height for multifamily dwellings of 45 feet (three stories); architectural features that enhance the appearance of the building and do not contain usable floor area may extend to 50 feet in height.
Open space requirements, per the ordinance, include no less than 40% of the total tract area to be devoted to a contiguous, uninterrupted conservation and/or open space area. Required open spaces as part of the ordinance may include natural areas such as forests; fields; flood hazard areas; watercourses; water bodies stream corridors; wetland areas; wetland buffer areas; and detention basins.
Although multiple residents and local groups at previous meeting raised concerns with a potential development on the site in regards to traffic, stormwater runoff and access to Route 206 in proximity to the site, DelCore explained in the past 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.
Following a motion from DelCore to approve this ordinance, committeewoman Olivia Holmes voiced her stance on the matter prior to her vote of “yes.”
“I just want [residents] to know that I understand what it’s like to be in the audience, to be part of the town, and it seems like we are not listening to you, but we are,” Holmes said. “By passing this tonight, we save ourselves from lawsuits, but that doesn’t mean [a development] is going to go in. The fight hasn’t even begun because of what [residents] are saying about that land. It can be stopped, but we have to do what we are doing tonight because we have no other choice with the lawsuits.”
Although committeeman Shawn Lipani voted “yes” as well, he expressed similar sentiments toward Holmes’ statement as well prior to his decision.
“I grew up in this town in 1970, and I could walk across Route 206 without looking,” Lipani said. “I understand what it’s like for a town to grow, and I understand the concerns about what’s being built here, but I also took an oath for the benefit of the whole township. Because of the chance of the builder’s remedy lawsuits and to not lose that, I have to vote ‘yes.’”
Prior to committeewoman Gloria McCauley’s vote of “yes,” she explained that Hillsborough’s ongoing affordable housing obligations are being faced throughout the state.
“This is something that the legislature has pushed on every single township in the state and as far as land goes, we are not land owners,” McCauley said. “We have a parcel of land to help relieve some of that affordable housing obligation that is being forced upon us, and it’s unfortunate, but we are also here to fight that fight.”
DelCore explained his reasoning for a vote of “yes” to people in attendance at the meeting prior to his decision.
“We heard your concerns, and I have been in front of the judge at least two times over the last month trying to figure out what could be done here,” DelCore said. “The order that was issued kind of put it into perspective for us. We simply can’t risk our immunity being lost because that will have complete loss of control of any development in the town at all… Your fight should not end here.
“This is the zoning process. This is not the site plan. This is not the discussion of the final building that will go on this site. I would urge [residents] to stay involved…We did make an effort here, and I know it’s of little consolation, but we need to comply with the judge’s orders, and I’m sure I will see [residents] when this gets presented at the planning board,” DelCore added.
Hillsborough Township Deputy Mayor Doug Tomson was absent from the meeting.