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Howell council members table second look at developer’s agreement

HOWELL – The members of the Howell Township Council have tabled their possible reconsideration of a developer’s agreement regarding a residential project known as The Fountains.

A developer’s agreement is an agreement between a governing body and a developer to expressly define a project’s rules, regulations, commitments and policies for a specific period of time.

In 2018, the developer of The Fountains received approval from the Howell Planning Board to construct 105 age-restricted residential units in several multi-story buildings on Route 9 north. As part of the application process, the developer removed a proposal to construct 26 residential units at a second location in Howell.

During a meeting on Sept. 14, a developer’s agreement relating to The Fountains was on the agenda. The proposed agreement was rejected by the members of the governing body.

Township Attorney Joseph Clark said the rejection of the proposed agreement could lead to litigation.

When the council met on Sept. 28, the developer’s agreement was back on the agenda. Mayor Theresa Berger and Councilman John Bonevich were absent. Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo, Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell and Councilwoman Pamela Richmond were present.

Richmond said she believed the resolution regarding the developer’s agreement should be tabled.

“I think it is essential since Councilman Bonevich did mention (on Sept. 14) that he thinks the developer should come and speak to him. I think it is only fair that Councilman Bonevich and the mayor be here to speak to the developer, to give them the time that is well deserved,” Richmond said.

Russo, Richmond and O’Donnell voted to table any potential action on the matter to the council’s meeting on Oct 12.

Clark addressed the issue and said, “I have spoken to the developer at length a few times. They have informed me they are in fact drafting a complaint they intend to file. I have asked if they would be willing to come in and address the council (in accordance with) Councilman Bonevich’s request (and) they are.”

He went on to say, “We have multiple agreements here going back to 1989. The 1989 agreement allows 404 units to be built; the 2003 plan was to build (300 units), but if there was anything done to thwart that plan, the original agreement for 400-plus units would kick in.

“We have a 2015 application to the Planning Board where (the developer) voluntarily limited the development to 100 age-restricted units. They subsequently abandoned part of the plan which was to build 26 (additional) residential units. They have agreed to donate 43 acres to (Howell),” Clark said, adding that the 46-acre parcel is developable.

The township attorney recommended that the council members not discuss the matter further until they meet with the developer.

Clark said he has asked the developer’s representatives to delay legal action, and to hear the council’s position and to address the governing body. He said the council’s potential vote on the developer’s agreement on Oct. 12 will indicate how the matter will proceed.

“They have their approvals. (The Fountains) is an approved development. … This is entirely up to them, they have multiple options they could pursue. They could pursue the 400-plus units, they could pursue the 100 units, they could do any number of things and we are sort of left guessing until we get a complaint,” he said.

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