Moorestown residents have hired legal counsel in an effort to stop Pennrose’s affordable housing construction.
Residents whose homes border West Route 38 have spent approximately 10 months in a holding pattern as they wait to find out whether Pennrose LLC will get the go-ahead to construct its proposed 75 multi-family affordable housing units at the site bordering its homes. At the most recent Moorestown Township Council meeting, residents vented their frustrations regarding the standstill to council.
“What is being done? Are alternative sites being explored? Where do we stand?” resident Carol Radomski asked.
Last March, more than 40 Moorestownians received a legal notice of Pennrose LLC’s attempt to invalidate a restrictive covenant that limits development at Pennrose’s proposed site located at 160 Route West Route 38. While this covenant is in place, Pennrose is unable to construct its proposed 75 multi-family affordable housing units on the site. These sites are part of the township’s agreement with Fair Share Housing to meet its affordable housing obligation.
Radomski explained to council that residents who have hired legal counsel shortly after being served in an effort to stop Pennrose’s attempts to invalidate the covenant have waited as their hearings have been continuously postponed for a variety of reasons.
“We still don’t have a date when this issue is going to be resolved,” Radomski said. “I think it’s appalling that we’ve been kept waiting 10 months, and you may say, ‘It’s not my problem,’ but it is your problem.”
Radomski asked council if they’ve given consideration to alternate locations should the covenant remain in place. She addressed Mayor Lisa Petriello directly, saying that last fall Petriello expressed concerns about rezoning the site as an affordable location because residents were receiving legal notices.
“We are incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal bills for nothing that we’ve done,” Radomski said.
Resident Jeffrey Herb expressed similar frustrations saying he’s not against affordable housing, but he is against a four-story building being constructed behind his home. He said, in his eyes, hiring an attorney was his only option.
“That’s my only way to fight this,” Herb said “I don’t want a four-story unit behind my house.”
According to Petriello, the township has not identified alternate sites at this time and plans on proceeding with the agreement they have in place with Fair Share Housing.
“I happen to feel as you say that Pennrose is not the most suitable place, but they are an intervenor, and they do have legal rights in this and they are part of the plan,” Petriello said.
Petriello said council recently hired a new lawyer to handle its affordable housing litigation. She said they’re hoping to bring questions to his fresh eyes to get some “better direction” as they continue to grapple with the steps to meeting their affordable housing obligation.
Councilman Brian Donnelly said because the suit is between Pennrose and the residents, Moorestown is sitting on the sidelines at this point. Donnelly, an attorney, questioned why the residents and Pennrose haven’t tried mediation. He said because the residents’ qualm is with the height of the building, they could try to negotiate that Pennrose build a two-story building.
“If you meditate and settle this, you have finality,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly said if Pennrose agreed to construct fewer units, the township would still have to find another location to put the remaining units needed to fulfill its affordable housing obligation.
The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.