Opinion: Hillsborough officials favor private interests of developers over citizens

moodboard
Lately you can’t avoid noticing all the construction going on in Hillsborough. The Township Committee under Mayor Doug Tomson authorized private developers to build thousands of market priced apartments in two- and three-story complexes throughout town. The committee has stated this choice was necessary in order to persuade developers to also build, within the apartment complexes, the few hundred affordable housing units required by our Supreme Court. The committee has stated private builders cannot make enough profit constructing solely affordable housing units, and need to be permitted to build three market priced units for every one affordable unit.

Every one of the residential complexes with several hundred apartments being built, only contain 25% affordable units. The other 75% are market priced units. That formula is what created the far greater number of market priced units being built and the overcrowded living conditions likely to accompany that much residential development

Town residents have questioned whether a different formula not reliant on providing greater profits for developers would be a better choice for township residents. For example, in other communities non-profit developers are chosen to build many of the court ordered affordable units. These developers can afford to build solely affordable housing units without accompanying market priced units.

The choice by Mayor Tomson and the committee to build three times as many market priced units as affordable ones was a subject at the Hillsborough Township Committee meeting on July 14. It arose in connection with the costly $20 million purchase by the town in 2017 of 300 acres of vacant land as a settlement of the Hillsborough Properties’ lawsuit. Mayor Tomson stated the purchase and its price were necessary to prevent residential development of more than 1,000 residences planned for those 300 acres. Committeeman Frank DelCore agreed.

At the meeting, town residents questioned why some of the 300 acres purchased to prevent residential development weren’t being used for that same purpose, to build solely affordable units without the additional market priced units. If the town would have donated some of the 300 acres to non-profit developers, it would have helped these developers avoid the cost of purchasing the land and enabled them to construct more solely affordable units without the need to build market priced units.

The Township Committee’s lawyer, Eric Bernstein, surprisingly stated no residential homes, including affordable ones, could be built on the 300 acres and that he had advised the court the land was not suitable for residential development. However, this contradicted Mayor Tomson’s claim several minutes earlier for purchasing these same acres to stop residential development.

Before the citizens of Hillsborough can trust what Mayor Tomson and the committee tell them about its plans for residential development, they need to know who to believe and whether the mayor and Township Committee are truly basing their decisions on the profits and private interests of developers or the best interests of the citizens of the community.

Roger Koch
Hillsborough