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Developer’s rep meets with Howell council to discuss The Fountains

HOWELL – Members of the Township Council have met with a representative of an entity that has approval to build a residential development off Route 9 North in Howell to discuss a developer’s agreement the council has yet to approve.

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.

6461 Route 9 Howell, LLC, is the owner and developer of The Fountains.

In 2018, the developer received approval from the Planning Board to construct 105 age-restricted residential units in several 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 and to donate that land to the township.

During a Township Council meeting on Sept. 14, a developer’s agreement relating to The Fountains was on the agenda. The proposed agreement was rejected by the council members.

Township Attorney Joseph Clark told the members of the governing body their rejection of the proposed agreement could lead to litigation being filed by the developer.

When the council met on Sept. 28, the developer’s agreement was back on the agenda.

Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo, Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell and Councilwoman Pamela Richmond were present. Mayor Theresa Berger and Councilman John Bonevich were absent.

Russo, O’Donnell and Richmond voted to table action regarding the developer’s agreement to the council meeting on Oct 12.

During the Oct. 12 meeting, Berger and Richmond were absent. Russo, Bonevich and O’Donnell voted to table action regarding the developer’s agreement to the council meeting on Oct. 26.

That evening, Lou Kaufmann attended the meeting on behalf of the developer, 6461 Route 9 Howell.

“I am here because I was under the impression the matter was put off once, I was told it would be put on tonight. I am here to have it heard, I am hearing now that you plan on tabling it,” he said and asked why the issue was being tabled until Oct. 26.

Russo said the action was being taken because 40% of the council (two members) was absent. He said he believes all five council members should consider the issue.

“You have some fiduciary obligation not to set yourselves up for litigation. Which in case you have any question, it (litigation) will come if you don’t agree to (the developer’s agreement),” Kaufmann said.

“The board unanimously agreed to accept our development bonds, they unanimously agreed to issue a woodlands management permit which we posted with the town already for $96,000. They unanimously agreed to a sewer connection fee which will cost $188,000. So you have taken the money, how about letting us build, or is that the way we are treated here?” Kaufmann said.

Bonevich said the matter should be considered by all five members of the council. He said there are questions that need to be resolved.

Regarding the land the developer is going to donate to Howell, Bonevich said, “The court settlement says you are to donate that land prior to any permits or building.”

“If that is what you want, I can do that. Give me the building permit. That is what I am here for,” Kaufmann said. “Sign the developer’s agreement we have agreed to.”

Bonevich said the developer’s agreement does not address the donation of the land before permits are issued.

One of the Planning Board’s conditions regarding The Fountains’ approval related to the donation of the land in question, according to municipal officials.

The matter of the developer’s agreement for The Fountains was tabled until Oct. 26.

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