HAZLET – The possibility that the vacant Holy Family School site will be transformed into a 172-unit housing development – with 26 units set aside for affordable housing – came into sharper focus Tuesday night.
Expressing reluctance, but assurance from their professionals this was the “least bad” solution, the governing body adopted a rezoning ordinance designating the property between Route 36 East and Tara Lin Drive a new affordable housing zone with a concept map that illustrates the number of units, setbacks, building height and related items.
In coming weeks, the second part of Hazlet’s plan will also be addressed. Stone Road Meadows, also known as Grenada Estates, will also be the subject of a rezoning to permit 55-and-older housing. The vacant parcel is already zoned for 48-and older for an odd reason lost to history, and needs to be changed to comply with state law. A developer would have the ability to build a 312-unit development on the Union Beach border with 63 affordable market-rate units for sale, under the plan. Combined with other credits, the township could meet its COAH third round obligation.
The township is under pressure to have this and other related local legislation in place by April 25 in preparation for a judicial hearing at the end of June proving that Hazlet in in compliance with the state mandate to provide negotiated 116 affordable housing units – or lose protection from further builder’s remedy suits that could force more building in the township.
About 40 homeowners attended the meeting, mostly from the development behind Holy Family School. Several decried the situation, insisting the Township Committee could has done more to fight Highview Homes’ builders remedy lawsuit against Hazlet, because Hazlet did not have an affordable housing plan in place.
“Just to be clear, this is not something we wanted,” said Deputy Mayor Mike Glackin, who has been personally focused on the builder’s remedy suit for the past two years. “The owner of the property sold it. They maximized their profit on the property,” he said, describing the Diocese of Trenton, which owns Holy Family School. “The developer is in business, so he uses the law that says we need affordable housing,” he said, meaning Highview Homes of Middletown. “No question about it. We got stuck between a rock and a hard place. We were fighting for two years. We were starting to get diminishing returns, where it was exposing the rest of the town, in terms of affordable housing,” he said. He was referring to attempts by another developer to join the lawsuit by proposing a development behind Costco, which was eventually turned down by the judge when she saw evidence that Hazlet was trying to move forward with a plan.
“So at that point, that’s when we had to say ‘Alright, we gotta go forward.’ You guys – I hate to say it – You’re going to take it on the chin for us,”
With that, several residents erupted in outrage. Order had to be restored with a few taps of the gavel.
Mayor Scott Aagre advised residents will have their opportunity to question the applicant about how the project will impact them specifically, such as the location of trash bins, parking lot lights, traffic impact and more. “(Highview Homes) still have to submit a site plan to the Land Use Board. You will be noticed when that comes up.”
“The Land Use Board will be on your side,” Glackin said, adding the applicant will have to prove their answers to the township with engineering studies.
Read more coverage about Hazlet’s affordable housing strategy on Hazletonian.com: