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Florence officials approve ordinance to acquire property for potential affordable housing development

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The Florence Township Council passed an ordinance at a December meeting to purchase property with potential to become a site for affordable housing development.

At a Dec. 18 council meeting, Florence officials unanimously made a motion to approve and pass an ordinance, which authorized the acquisition of property located at 629 W Third St.

When the ordinance was introduced at a Dec. 4 council meeting, township administrator Richard Brook explained that due to the property’s deteriorating condition, the township became interested in acquiring it to clean up the site and develop it for future use.

“This is a property that is definitely in need of attention,” Brook said. “It has been in need of attention, and the municipality is acquiring it on a cash basis from what is referred to as an ‘affordable housing account.’ The ultimate goal is to, in all likelihood, either renovate the building or demolish the structure and rebuild housing in that area, and own some of the other properties there to help fulfill Florence Township’s affordable housing requests under the state requirements.”

After a January 2017 ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court required municipalities to amend its affordable housing plans to meet the needs for a gap period between 1999 and 2015, the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing did not approve affordable housing quotas for each community.

Representatives of the Fair Share Housing Center in Cherry Hill, advocated for the construction of affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

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

Prior to the the ordinance being approved at a Dec. 18 council meeting, Assistant Township Administrator Tom Sahol explained why the municipality was interested in acquiring this property, as well as potential uses for the site.

“The goal is that we are purchasing properties that have gone into horrible repair or a state of decline, that are primarily in areas where a good reuse is likely to occur, especially in the area of affordable housing.” Sahol said. “The municipality is doing just that in this location. The property was subject to a fire and is now not habitable, so it’s time that this property be put back to a good reuse.

“By removing the property and eventually reconstructing something there, affordable housing in that area would be a much-needed improvement for the residents,” Sahol said.

This decision from the council comes several weeks after it passed additional legislation to acquire property in Roebling for potential redevelopment. The council unanimously approved two ordinances at a Dec. 4 meeting to execute a bond ordinance and authorize the purchase of property on 100 Fifth Ave. on Main Street in Roebling.

The site once housed the former historic bank in Roebling. Municipal officials said this site could serve as a potential location to spark development in township’s larger vision for the Roebling area. Discussion is already underway for the proposed development and use of township-owned property sited near the Roebling Museum in Florence.

Conversations about development for the area among municipal officials have included a potential marina/waterfront district, entertainment area, residential development, boardwalk and other commercial opportunities. With the recent purchase of the Roebling Bank property, the township has already taken one step to bring this vision forth.

At the Dec. 4 council meeting, township administrator Richard Brook explained the reason for the land acquisition, as well as the municipality’s current aim for the property. Brook also discussed the township’s several efforts in the past to purchase various properties for the aimed benefit of residents.

Although officials said that no immediate plan was in place for the potential use of the former Roebling Bank once the ordinances were approved, the municipality was committed to acquiring it to stymie its decline and will eventually discuss a potential designation for the site.

Florence Township Council meetings are held in the municipal complex’s court chambers room, which is located on 711 Broad St., Florence.

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