Manalapan committee creates affordable housing zone on Sobechko Road

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MANALAPAN – The Township Committee has adopted an ordinance that officials said will help Manalapan meet its obligation to provide opportunities for the construction of affordable housing in the community.

The ordinance establishes an affordable housing overlay zone (AH-O) in a light industrial zone along Sobechko Road, east of Wilson Avenue (Route 527). The legislation was adopted by the committee on Feb. 26.

Voting to adopt the ordinance were Mayor Jack McNaboe, Committeewoman Mary Ann Musich, Committeeman Barry Jacobson and Committeeman Eric Nelson.

Deputy Mayor Susan Cohen stepped down from the dais on this matter. Cohen has said she does not participate in matters having to do with affordable housing because she works for an individual who owns land in Manalapan that could be used for affordable housing.

According to municipal officials, the new AH-O zone will provide an opportunity for the development of multi-family market rate housing and affordable housing along Sobechko Road.

A public hearing on the ordinance was held on Feb. 12. That evening, several residents who live near Sobechko Road – primarily on Dortmunder Drive and Pension Road – expressed concern about how the development of 250 housing units could impact this area of Manalapan.

Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin said the AH-O 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 is seeking municipal approval to construct housing in the AH-O zone will be required to file an application with the Planning Board, McNaboe told residents in attendance at the Feb. 26 meeting.

The mayor said if and when an application comes before the Planning Board, residents will learn the details about what is planned, i.e., buffering from neighboring sites, the impact of the project on the environment, the potential impact of new vehicles on local roads and details about the type of housing being proposed.

The new AH-O zone is near the 90-year-old Englishtown Auction Sales, which is on Sobechko Road. The overlay zone will permit 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 the public comment portion of the Feb. 26 meeting, several residents of the Pension Road area asked questions about development that could occur in their neighborhood.

“People have concerns about the land being disturbed,” resident Michael Malizioso said.

Malizioso said the residents’ concern is not necessarily about homes being constructed, but about how the area could be impacted by the disturbance to and changes on the property that is developed.

He asked municipal officials to make certain that adequate environmental testing of the property to be developed is conducted to ensure there would not be an adverse impact on neighboring homes.

“A full environmental investigation will be required (prior to development), which would include a history of the property,” Township Engineer James Winckowski told the residents.

He said no application for development on the Sobechko Road parcels has been filed at this time.

The ordinance adopted 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.