The public hearing on RPM Development’s use variance application to build a 70-unit affordable housing development, adjacent to the Lawrence Shopping Center, has been rescheduled for the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment’s Dec. 16 meeting.
The use variance application was slated to be heard at the zoning board’s Oct. 21 meeting, but was postponed at the request of the applicant, Lawrence Township officials said. The zoning board began the public hearing on the application at its Sept. 16 meeting, but ran out of time to complete it.
A use variance is needed for the proposed 100% affordable housing development on land off Texas Avenue because duplex and multi-family developments are not permitted uses in the Highway Commercial and R-4 residential zones.
Most of the four-acre site on Texas Avenue is zoned Highway Commercial, and a small portion is zoned R-4. The density of development at 17.9 units per acre also exceeds the maximum of 10 units per acre in the R-4 zone.
With the exception of one apartment set aside for the on-site superintendent, all of the apartments are earmarked for low- and moderate-income households. The development will help Lawrence Township meet its obligation to provide affordable housing as a result of a lawsuit filed against it – and several other towns – by the nonprofit Fair Share Housing Center.
The site was added to the township’s Housing Element and Fair Share Plan in the Lawrence Township Master Plan in July. The site would have to be rezoned to permit the multi-family development, but RPM Development faces a tight deadline to apply for funding under the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.
RPM Development has specialized in developing affordable housing for more than 30 years. It builds and manages affordable housing developments, including 4,000 units in New Jersey.
Much of the Sept. 16 public hearing focused on traffic and parking issues. There was also some discussion about the lack of recreational amenities for the residents of the 69 affordable rental apartments.
The original plan showed 79 parking spaces, of which 23 were to be located on the street on Texas Avenue. The rest of the parking spaces would be distributed on the property. A variance is required because 141 parking spaces are required for the mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.
But an amendment to the application, submitted prior to the Sept. 16 meeting, showed 102 parking spaces.
Of those 102 spaces, 42 would be located on land belonging to the Lawrence Shopping Center, between the rear of the shopping center and the three apartment buildings. The remainder of the parking spaces would be on RPM Development’s property.
The applicant’s traffic engineer testified that the number of parking spaces would be sufficient. Given the income of the renters, the number of cars that could be expected to be parked at the affordable housing development would be fewer than in a market-rate housing development, he said.
The applicant has data from its other properties that show one car per apartment. NJTransit operates two bus routes nearby, which the traffic engineer said would reduce the need for parking spaces.
The proximity of the development to a grocery store and other retail stores at the Lawrence Shopping Center, as well as the potential that some renters could find jobs at those stores, also reduces the need for parking spaces, the traffic engineer said.
The applicant’s civil engineer told the zoning board that although the development does not include formal recreational amenities, there is an area of open space near the Texas Avenue entrance to the Lawrence Shopping Center that would be part of the development.
The civil engineer said his client would be agreeable to working with the township to provide recreational amenities, such as benches or swings, on the open space near the shopping center entrance.