The would-be developer of a 70-unit affordable housing development, adjacent to the Lawrence Shopping Center, hopes to wrap up an application for a use variance before the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment at the board’s Jan. 20 meeting.
This will be the third meeting in a series of public hearings on RPM Development LLC’s request for a use variance for its proposed 100% affordable housing development on land off Texas Avenue, at the rear of the Lawrence Shopping Center.
A use variance is needed because duplex and multi-family developments are not permitted uses in the Highway Commercial and R-4 residential zone. Most of the four-acre site is zoned Highway Commercial, and a small portion is zoned R-4. The density of 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 2020. The site would have to be rezoned to permit the multi-family development, but RPM Development is facing 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 more than 4,000 units in New Jersey.
Much of the focus of the Dec. 16 public hearing was aimed at revisions to the site plan made by the applicant in response to comments and issues raised at the initial public hearing in September.
Among the tweaks to the plan, RPM Development purchased additional land from the owners of the Lawrence Shopping Center that will allow it to put all of the 102 parking spaces on land that it owns. The previous plan showed 42 of the 102 parking spaces on land belonging to the shopping center, but through an arrangement between the two parties.
A variance is required, however, because 141 parking spaces are required for the mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The original plan showed 79 parking spaces, of which 23 were to be located on Texas Avenue in front of the six duplex buildings included in the development. All parking spaces have been moved to the parking lot.
RPM Development also eliminated two separate driveways into the property and combined them into one driveway off Texas Avenue. One of the two driveways would have been an entrance driveway and the other would have been an exit driveway.
The applicant also revised its recreational amenities plan to include a playground and a dog park. Both would be located on land near the Texas Avenue entrance to the Lawrence Shopping Center. The playground and dog park would be open to the neighbors, as well.