My Farm housing plan gains support in U.F.


UPPER FREEHOLD — More than 50 people attended the third and final joint meeting of the Township Committee and Planning Board regarding the town’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligation.

While most of those who spoke during the public hearing at Allentown High School Nov. 24 lauded the township’s My Farm concept, some felt it should not be placed on the 45-acre Breza Road tract, or should be built on the 56-acre Stein property abutting Allentown.

My Farm is a development of affordable housing for the disabled and their families in a farming atmosphere. The development would totally satisfy Upper Freehold’s new COAH obligation.

Mike Renzulli, who lives near the Breza Road site, said he is opposed to putting My Farm on the Breza Road site because the property is currently under contract for preservation and the township may not be able to get out of the contract.

“As preserved land, it will not have houses built on it or contribute to school crowding conditions,” he said.

Renzulli called My Farm a good concept, but a bad plan. He asked if neighboring Allentown would agree to supply the sewer service for the development and if Aqua Water Company would agree to provide the water.

“Is it wise to locate mentally disabled people next to a middle school?” he asked.

Renzulli alleged that COAH is not a program for the assistance of disabled people.

“Why are we trying to make it one?” he asked.

Renzulli also alleged that the township chose the Breza Road site for the COAH development for political reasons.

Former mayor William Miscoski said the My Farm plan is well thought out and “ingenious.” He said that he doesn’t think the development belongs on the Stein property and said that anyone who thought that land could be purchased for a reasonable price “had rocks in their head.” He said that there is nowhere else in the town to locate COAH housing.

Miscoski, a long-time critic of Allentown Mayor Stuart Fierstein, said if there is money in the My Farm plan for Allentown, “believe me, they’re coming in.” Miscoski added that assisted living is needed.

“We’re not talking about handicapped nitwits who will run around and rape children in school,” he said. “We’re talking about good people who need assisted living.”

Miscoski said that township COAH planner Richard Coppola is very good at what he does, and the town has spent a lot of money on COAH.

Shari Burke, Upper Freehold, who is the mother of two handicapped sons, said, “They aren’t a threat to the community. They need a place to live one day when I’m not here, and so do other handicapped people living here.”

Eliot Weisner, Upper Freehold, referred to an interview in a local paper in which Mayor Steve Alexander lauded the My Farm concept. Weisner said Alexander should recuse himself from voting on the issue because he has already stated his position. Planning Board Attorney Dennis Collins replied that the practicality of dealing with the master plan requires politicians to discuss issues that affect their constituency.

“The mayor’s comments are appropriate and expected,” he said, noting that there is plenty of case law citing that such comments do not rise to the level of a conflict of interest.

Tom Palillo, who also lives near the Breza Road parcel, said he wouldn’t want to be a handicapped individual in “the middle of a field,” and said such people would be better off living close to centers of activity.

“In a 4-foot snowstorm, they could be out in the middle of a field,” he said.

Bruce Feigenbaum, Upper Freehold, called My Farm a very creative project.

“It’s an example of caring, common sense government — what Upper Freehold should be all about,” he said.

Micah Rasmussen, Allentown, called the COAH plan “border dumping.” He noted that Upper Freehold is a 47-squaremile township locating COAH on its extreme borders. Rasmussen said that COAH should be integrated throughout the community, and called the site selection “a sham.”

Rasmussen, who served as spokesman for former Gov. James McGreevey, asked the board if the state would accept the township dumping COAH housing on its border.

“When you are hit with a builder’s remedy lawsuit, please remember we talked about it here first,” he said.

Robert Cheff, Allentown, who has a child with a disability, said My Farm is a commendable plan.

“It’s an opportunity for the community to put its best foot forward,” he said.

Cindy Bardwil, Upper Freehold, said she received many responses to an e-mail she sent out about My Farm.

“With the national average of autistic children at 1 in 150, this country is in the middle of an autism epidemic.”

Bardwil said that millions of children would grow up needing residential care that is simply unavailable.

“There are thousands of adults on endless waiting lists hoping for a spot in one of the few residential homes that exist,” Bardwil said. “Even worse, there are thousands of aging parents spending their last years wondering who will take care of their child when they are gone.”

She continued, “My Farm would not only provide a much needed environment for disabled residents, but it would also provide employment, produce vegetables that could be utilized and sold, help keep the rural atmosphere that Upper Freehold residents cherish and enjoy, and fulfill our COAH obligations.”