Manalapan officials to consider affordable housing zone on Sobechko Road


MANALAPAN – When the Township Committee meets on Feb. 26, its members will consider adopting an ordinance that will help Manalapan meet its obligation to provide opportunities for the construction of affordable housing in the community.

The ordinance which establishes an affordable housing overlay zone (AH-O) in a light industrial zone along Sobechko Road, east of Wilson Avenue (Route 527), was introduced by the committee on Jan. 29.

If the ordinance is adopted, the new AH-O zone will provide an opportunity for the development of multi-family market rate housing and affordable housing, according to municipal officials.

A public hearing regarding the ordinance was held on Feb. 12. Several residents who live near Sobechko Road – primarily on Dortmunder Drive and Pension Road – expressed concern about the possibility of up to 250 housing units being constructed in this area of Manalapan.

The AH-O zone ordinance was scheduled to be reviewed by the Planning Board on Feb. 13. Township Committee members indicated they would wait for the board to review the ordinance before considering it for adoption. The ordinance is expected to come before the governing body on Feb. 26.

Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin said the ordinance stems from a settlement agreement Manalapan’s representatives entered into with the Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, which advocates for the construction of affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

He said the ordinance applies to five properties in the area of Sobechko Road, near the Englishtown Auction Sales. Manalapan will receive credit for affordable housing that is constructed in the AH-O zone.

A developer who wants to construct housing in the AH-O zone would be required to file an application with the Planning Board. At that time, residents would have an opportunity to comment on the application and to learn the details about what is planned, i.e., buffering from neighboring sites, the potential impact of new vehicles on local roads and details about the type of housing being proposed, according to McLaughlin.

One resident who addressed the committee on Feb. 12 asked why the AH-O zone was being created near his home. He suggested officials were taking the action in this area of Manalapan because “we don’t have $600,000 homes.”

McLaughlin said Manalapan’s elected officials have zoned for affordable housing at several locations in the community, including on Route 33 where there are large open space tracts.

An affordable housing zone was created several years ago on Wood Avenue (Route 522) and apartments for individuals of all ages were built at that location. Some years before those apartments were approved, a building containing affordable housing for seniors was constructed on Woodward Road.

“We have spread these affordable housing developments around the town,” Mayor Jack McNaboe said.

The proposed AH-O zone in the vicinity of the Englishtown Auction Sales would allow for the construction of up to 175 market rate units and 75 affordable housing units that would be made available through sale or rental to low, very low and moderate income households, according to the ordinance.

During public comment, one resident asked municipal officials how the establishment of an affordable housing zone on Sobechko Road would affect the future of the Englishtown Auction Sales, which is on that street between Pension Road and Wilson Avenue.

McNaboe suggested that the resident address his question about the auction to the owners of the business.

A message left at the Englishtown Auction Sales office by the News Transcript on Feb. 18 was not immediately returned.

The ordinance that is under consideration for adoption by the Township Committee states that “the intent of the AH-O zone is to establish a suitable location within the township for the development of low and moderate income housing uses in the form of an inclusionary development.

“This zoning district will provide realistic opportunities for the construction of low and moderate income housing to implement the township housing element and third round (1999-2025) fair share plan which has been approved by the Superior Court …”

The following uses are permitted in the AH-O zone: townhouse attached dwellings; multi-family attached units for low, very low and moderate income dwellings; and parking facilities to serve an off-site adjacent commercial use.

The following accessory uses and structures are permitted in the AH-O zone: home occupations and home professional offices; fences; and patios and decks.

The minimum tract size for a development in the AH-O zone is 20 acres and 30% of the housing units that are produced must be set aside for low and moderate income households. No residential building or structure may exceed 40 feet in height, according to the ordinance.