MILLSTONE – The Millstone Township Planning Board has adopted the township’s amended housing element and fair share plan, which will help Millstone Township meet its court mandated obligation to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing in the community.
At the board’s Jan. 29 meeting, Chairman Mitchell Newman and board members Mary Pinney, Anthony Conoscenti, Rose Oxley, Thomas Pado, Robert Beck and Deputy Mayor Nancy Grbelja, who sits on the board, voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the amended housing element and fair share plan.
Vice Chairman Chris Pepe and board member Jeffrey Ziner voted “no” on the motion.
A resolution memorializing the board’s Jan. 29 vote was passed on Feb. 12.
Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines. According to township officials, Millstone’s obligation is 231 affordable housing units.
The board’s adoption of the plan follows a settlement agreement between Millstone Township, the Fair Share Housing Center and Showplace Farms, LLC, that was approved in New Jersey Superior Court in late 2019.
The Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, advocates for the construction of affordable housing throughout New Jersey. Showplace Farms, Route 33, Millstone Township, is an intervener in the municipality’s affordable housing litigation.
As part of the settlement agreement, Millstone officials were required to adopt the amended housing element and fair share plan.
Township officials have said Millstone will meet its obligation to provide 231 affordable housing units and said the approved projects would consist solely of affordable housing, with the exception of a proposed development from Baldachino Properties that will be a mix of market rate and affordable housing.
The plan from Baldachino Properties may include about 240 units, with about 48 units to be designated as affordable housing. The development site is 711 Perrineville Road (Route 1), near Etra-Perrineville Road (Route 571) and the border of East Windsor. The parcel is also near the borough of Roosevelt.
During public comment, Kyle Sanicki, of Perrineville Road, said, “(The Baldachino property) is rural zoning to protect the aquifer below it and the wetlands that are behind it.
“This board is preparing to change that zoning for the polar opposite of anything in this town and anything that belongs on that spot.
“(The property will have) a density this township has never seen before, over a aquifer, preparing a septic treatment plant, butted up against preserved wetlands and digging a well into the aquifer to support, give or take, 1,000 human beings who would permanently be residents there,” Sanicki said.
Concerns about the Baldachino development were also raised by officials from Roosevelt.
Roosevelt Mayor Peggy Malkin said, “You have to assume if (the 240-unit development) has apartments with one, two and three bedrooms, that every family moving in will have a minimum of two cars. Right away, you are talking about almost 600 cars.
“Many cars will be coming through Roosevelt (en route to other destinations). We have a very small, narrow, county road (Route 571) that goes through the center of town. We also have a public school on that road. Our children walk to school, there are no buses, and we are going to have this influx of cars.
“Ely’s Corner, the main intersection where Roosevelt meets Millstone, is a very dangerous intersection. When I moved to Roosevelt 45 years ago, the only people who came through Ely’s Corner were people who lived in Roosevelt.
“Now you have all the Millstone people from your different developments, but it’s still going to pale in comparison to how many people are coming through the intersection once the (Baldachino) development is completed. You have to consider that entire intersection will have to be changed,” Malkin told board members.
Roosevelt Council President Mike Hamilton suggested to the board that Roosevelt officials could assist Millstone in the township’s affordable housing projects.
Newman said the Planning Board would look into Hamilton’s suggestion of having Roosevelt officials assist in evaluating a development application from Baldachino if and when such an application is scheduled to appear before the board.
In reviewing the housing element and fair share plan, board members made note of the potential consequences of not adopting the document.
Officials reasoned that Millstone Township could lose its 231-unit affordable housing obligation and face the prospect of a larger number of affordable housing units being required, which could lead to legal action and additional costs to taxpayers.
In voting to adopt the housing element and fair share plan, Newman said, “Understanding this is a court process, the builder’s remedy aspect to this and the loss of immunity, I believe we will have a significant and meaningful opportunity with our professionals, our neighbors and the public to give this (Baldachino development) a severe evaluation in all of the governmental review processes, including when and if it actually comes to this board.
“The costs outlined in the plan that were submitted as a draft by the builder are fairly tight. I think there will be plenty of opportunities where those costs will be exceeded and will give the developer pause as to whether this will proceed.
“I think there is plenty of opportunity for this to form and reform or not form at all,” Newman continued. “With the weight of the court on our shoulders, I’ll also vote yes” to adopt the housing element and fair share plan.