Hopewell Township sends plan for housing to COAH

Township is seeking to have COAH certify that it is in compliance with the state mandate to provide housing for low- and moderate-income residents

By John Tredrea
   A Hopewell Township affordable housing plan covering the years 2004-2014 is being sent to the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).
   Members of the Township Committee voted 4-0 Monday night on the plan that will go to COAH.
   Voting yes were Deputy Mayor Mark Iorio and committee members David Sandahl, Judy Niederer and Vanessa Sandom. Mayor Arlene Kemp was absent.
   In sending the plan to COAH, the township is seeking to have that state agency certify that the township is in compliance with the state mandate to provide housing for low- and moderate-income residents. That mandate resulted from the state Supreme Court’s landmark Mount Laurel decisions, one handed down in 1975 and the other in 1983.
   At Monday night’s meeting, township planner Michael Bolan said half of the 186 new units of housing proposed by the plan will be covered by a Regional Contribution Agreement (RCA) between the township and Trenton. Under the RCA, 93 units of dilapidated housing in the city will be renovated in the city for low- and moderate-income buyers.
   The primary ways in which the remaining 93 units would be accounted for include:
   — 35 units to be built by the township on township-owned land off Scotch Road.
   — 55 units to be built by a private developer, Beazer Homes, off Route 31 below the Pennington Circle. These units will be part of two projects for which Beazer has held off seeking approval from the township Planning Board until the affordable housing plan was approved. The tracts are located behind the ShopRite, on Route 31 just south of the circle, and off Denow Road, midway between the circle and I-95.
   — 12 units in a group home, possibly run by Project Freedom of the Mercer County Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC).
   The affordable housing plan — approved in draft form in late October — was developed by the township’s Affordable Housing Committee.
ACCORDING TO the New Jersey Digital Legal Library (NJDLL), the first Mount Laurel decision, handed down in 1975, "attacked the system of land-use regulation in place in the Township of Mount Laurel on the grounds that low- and moderate-income families were unlawfully excluded from the municipality." In the decision, the state Supreme Court held that zoning ordinances that excluded these residents were unconstitutional. This case is referred to as "Mount Laurel I" to distinguish it from subsequent litigation.
   Mount Laurel II, handed down eight years later, "helped put teeth" in Mt. Laurel I "by creating a fair-share formula to measure each municipality’s obligation to provide affordable housing, and by fashioning a ‘builder’s remedy’ to force municipalities to fulfill that obligation."
   According to the Land Use Law Web site: "Builders who successfully challenge municipalities which have not voluntarily come into compliance with their constitutional obligation to zone to permit affordable housing are typically awarded a ‘builder’s remedy’ or permission to build housing products at densities previously not permitted under the local zoning."
   The responsibility for working out the details of this decision was assigned by the Supreme Court to three trial judges. Two of them — one of whom was Eugene Serpentelli — handled most of the key issues. They heard a host of builder’s remedy cases from 1983 until 1986, when many such cases were transferred to the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), which had been created by the Fair Housing Act of 1985.