Township amends affordable housing agreement

The amendments include identifying an alternate location to the Pennrose site and the addition of the Diocese of Trenton’s Centerton Road location.

In the event the Pennrose site is ruled unsuitable for developing affordable housing, Moorestown has a backup plan. At its most recent meeting, Moorestown Township Council passed a resolution approving an amendment to its settlement with Fair Share Housing. The township has identified the Miles Technology Site located on Route 38 as a Pennrose alternative and has also added the Diocese of Trenton’s Centeron Road location to the overall plan.

The township was asked to identify an alternate site to Pennrose in response to pending litigation. In March 2018, Moorestown residents 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, and in response, several residents hired attorneys to pursue litigation ensuring the covenant is upheld.

Township Manager Thomas Neff explained the township is moving forward with Pennrose until such a time as the site becomes unavailable for development. The Miles Technology Site is not currently owned by the township, but there are conversations about acquiring the property taking place with the property owner. The site would be eligible for federal tax credits and was therefore identified as a potential alternative site.

The township also had to amend its plan as a result of “changed circumstances” that took place during the last six months, according to Neff. In February, the Diocese of Trenton informed the township that it no longer intended to build a church on its Centerton Road property, and it is willing to make the property available to address the township’s affordable housing need.

Neff said their willingness to contribute to the township’s affordable housing obligation and the fact that the property is located in a sewer service area resulted in 17 units being added to the township’s overall affordable housing obligation. The Diocese site does not qualify for federal tax credits, and therefore could not serve as an alternate to the Pennrose site.

While the Pennrose site increased its obligation, the township saw a reduction in the number of market to affordable units. Neff said this obligation decreased from 30 to 12 units since the township revealed its initial plan in March 2018.

Former Councilman Greg Newcomer said, in his eyes, the Miles site is a better location than Pennrose. He said the Miles site was already approved by the planning board when the site served as a commercial building, and the property already has impervious surfaces. He said conversely, there are still lingering questions about the Pennrose site in regard to drainage.

“It seems to be the better solution moving forward,” Newcomer said.

Ultimately, the resolution passed despite Councilman Michael Locatell and Councilwoman Victoria Napolitano voting “no” while Mayor Lisa Petriello, Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie and Councilman Brian Donnnelly voted “yes.”

The next regularly scheduled meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.