Holmdel officials approve Middle Road site for affordable housing

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HOLMDEL – Township Committee members have put their stamp of approval on a 4-acre parcel on Middle Road that could eventually be the location of 50 affordable housing units.

During a meeting on July 28, Mayor Gregory Buontempo, Deputy Mayor Cathy Weber, Committeeman Rocco Pascucci and Committeeman Prakash Santhana voted “yes” on a motion to adopt a zoning overlay ordinance that will permit residential development at the location.

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Committeeman Tom Critelli was absent from the meeting.

The type of units (i.e., homes, apartments, townhouses) that may be built at the location was not specified by municipal officials.

During a lengthy public hearing that preceded the adoption of the ordinance, residents of neighboring Hazlet and the attorney who represents the Hazlet Township Committee objected to various aspects of the ordinance.

The property on Middle Road (Route 516) in Holmdel is near a neighborhood in Hazlet that includes Azee Drive, Marsand Drive and Gerald Terrace.

Attorney Andrew Bayer, who represents Holmdel on affordable housing issues, said a court found that the Middle Road location meets the criteria for the development of affordable housing.

Bayer said the potential construction of a 50-unit affordable housing development at that location would give Holmdel 100 credits toward its 279-unit affordable housing obligation.

Holmdel has been involved in litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center, Cherry Hill, for a number of years regarding this issue, according to the attorney.

When the committee opened the public hearing, attorney James Gorman, who represents the Hazlet Township Committee, raised several issues.

The items Gorman discussed included the public notification regarding the ordinance, environmental constraints on the property, and the amount of impervious coverage that would be permitted on the Middle Road lot.

“Hazlet is not looking for a war. Hazlet is not saying don’t build (at this site). We are saying build what fits. You cannot fit 50 units here. You can fit in the 30s (units), but not 50. Don’t squeeze it on this site. I’m asking you to understand what you are doing,” Gorman said over the phone during the meeting that was being conducted remotely.

Bayer said Hazlet received proper notice regarding Holmdel’s planned actions, and said a previous proposal for the Middle Road site included 60 housing units. The attorney said a final compliance hearing on Holmdel’s affordable housing plan has been scheduled for Aug. 5.

Hazlet Mayor Michael Glackin spoke after Gorman and said there is a drainage issue on the subject property. He said a parking lot for the proposed development in Holmdel would be 5 feet from homes in Hazlet.

Hazlet resident Kyle Faron said he did not believe the Middle Road site was appropriate for what is being proposed, stating, “This (50-unit plan) should not be rammed into a site that can maybe fit 30 units.”

The ordinance regarding the Middle Road site was introduced in February and had been carried to the July 28 meeting.

Gorman suggested the matter might wind up in court.

After the public hearing was closed, Buontempo commented on the affordable housing issue, saying, “No one is thrilled to be going through this, but if we did not act we would be faced with the possibility of a builder’s remedy lawsuit. This was by far the best option for Holmdel.”

Bayer said if a developer is successful in a builder’s remedy lawsuit, “he can suspend a town’s zoning regulations and high density development can be allowed regardless of location (in a community) and regardless of the Township Committee’s preferences.”

By taking the action on July 28, “You (Holmdel officials) have kept control of your zoning and you have not allowed builders to be in control of that,” Bayer said.

The committee members voted 4-0 to adopt the zoning overlay ordinance for the Middle Road property.

Holmdel’s municipal planner, Jennifer Beahm, said if a proposal is made to construct housing at the Middle Road location, the application would be subject to a review and public hearing before the Holmdel Planning Board.

The issues mentioned by Gorman, Glackin and the Hazlet residents who spoke that evening – environmental constraints, site coverage and traffic – would be reviewed and considered by the Planning Board members and the board’s professionals, Beahm said.

During a meeting in June, Weber, Pascucci and Santhana voted “yes” on a motion to pass a resolution that confirmed the need for the construction of an affordable housing community at 625 South Laurel Ave., Holmdel.

The South Laurel Avenue site was also part of the litigation with the Fair Share Housing Center, which advocates for the construction of affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

A settlement agreement includes a township-sponsored, 50-unit, income-restricted family residential housing community at 625 South Laurel Ave.

The Township Committee has authorized Holmdel to enter into a developer’s agreement with Holmdel Family Apartments LLC as the entity that will construct, own and operate that residential community, according to the resolution.

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