Two weeks after Judge Ronald Bookbinder approved amendments to the township’s affordable housing plan, the township has already gotten to work on pushing those changes forward. Last Monday, Council adopted an ordinance on first reading that creates an Affordable Multifamily District at the Miles Technology site located on the corner of Route 38 and Pleasant Valley Avenue.
The judge’s ruling meant that the highly contentious Pennrose site, located at 160 West Route 38, is no longer part of the township’s affordable housing plan. The township, instead, identified the Miles Technology site located on Route 38 as a Pennrose alternative. At Monday night’s meeting, council zoned the location for 76 residential units. Of those 76 units, 75 would be restricted for affordable housing and one would be available for an on-sight manager.
Councilman Michael Locatell voted “no” on the ordinance, stating , he had concerns about the site’s setbacks and general condition. The remainder of council voted “yes” on first reading. The public hearing on the ordinance is set for the Aug. 19 meeting.
Resident Joseph DeLorenzo inquired about Locatell’s concerns with the setbacks and asked if they’re inconsistent with the other affordable housing sites. Locatell responded by saying that because the Miles site is surrounded by commercial real estate, the setbacks are shorter distances than the other sites. He said in his eyes, this doesn’t leave much space for vegetation and other buffering.
“It’s not going to set up as a very inviting place to live,” Locatell said.
DeLorenzo subsequently expressed concerns with the rate at which the ordinance is being passed. He said most of his neighbors only heard about the Miles property being worked into the plan in the last few weeks, and now this is already an ordinance. He said residents whose homes bordered the Pennrose property had many opportunities to be heard, but now, to him, it feels like the Miles property is being expedited. He said residents haven’t seen any sort of rendering or been given sufficient information about the plans.
“What is the purpose of the public hearing if we’re really not possessed of the information with which to ask intelligent questions about what is possible or not possible at that site?” DeLorenzo said.
Councilman Brian Donnelly explained there is not a developer lined up for the site, and for that reason, there is no rendering.
Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie agreed they are expediting the process because they’re in a bit of a time crunch. She said the township is risking its settlement and a lot of expense to the township if they don’t complete the necessary steps by the compliance hearing.
“We’re under the gun to get all these ordinances done,” Gillespie said.
Township Attorney Kevin Aberant said for the site to receive tax credits, they did need to introduce the ordinance for first reading at Monday’s meeting.
Township Manager Thomas Neff said township professionals will prepare a presentation for either the July 22 or Aug. 5 workshop prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting. He said, at that time, they’ll explain what is proposed for the site and answer some of residents’ questions prior to the Aug. 19 public hearing.
Resident Carol Radomski inquired about the status of the Pennrose site.
“I was wondering now that the Miles site has been proposed and is now part of the Fair Share Housing agreement when the Pennrose site would be zoned back to residential, professional,” Radomski said.
Aberant said he anticipates that will be on council’s agenda “fairly soon.” He said he would expect council to probably rezone the site prior to the compliance hearing – the date of which has yet to be determined.
“It’s the right thing to do considering what the residents have been through,” Radomski said.
The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Town Hall.