Letter to the Editor: Mayor, deputy mayor discuss why Miles site is a good fit

After several years of negotiations, Moorestown is close to finalizing its affordable housing plan. In June 2019, a judge deemed our affordable housing settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center to be fair, and we are now able to advance to a compliance hearing – the final step in this lengthy process. At the compliance hearing, which is likely to take place this fall, we will be required to prove that we are earnestly pursuing this settlement agreement. In the interest of transparency, we want to clarify one particular change the township was obligated to make to the March 2018 agreement.

To begin, as part of the 2018 agreement, Moorestown was required to identify an alternative location for 75 affordable homes originally planned for the “Pennrose site” (on Route 38 near Church Street) due to the possibility that a deed restriction on the property could be upheld, rendering the site unavailable for development. The current council began working with township professionals in early 2019 to evaluate an alternative site, considering such factors as cost to taxpayers, the likelihood of obtaining tax-credit funding, environmental impact and quality of life. We were required to have this alternative site identified for the township’s June 24 fairness hearing and selected the former site of Miles Technologies (on route 38 and Pleasant Valley Avenue). At the June hearing, the presiding judge determined that the Pennrose site was unavailable for development and could no longer be included in our affordable housing plan.

There are a number of reasons why we believe the Miles site is a good fit for this development. First, it provides easy access to public transportation – not only a quality of life benefit but also a requirement for obtaining 100 percent affordable housing tax credits that offset the costs of development. Without these tax credits, the entirety of the project cost would be borne by Moorestown residents. Second, unlike the prior location, the Miles site already has access to water, which means Moorestown will not have to pay an estimated one million dollars to bring this service to the site. Third, once developed, the Miles site allows for adequate space for parking, fire truck maneuvering in the case of emergency and will not require building within 100 feet of existing homes as planned at the prior site. Finally, redeveloping the Miles site does not involve paving over existing green space as required at the Pennrose location. The improved Miles site, with increased pervious surface area and updated stormwater management systems, will reduce stormwater runoff and yield additional meaningful benefits for the Strawbridge Lake ecosystem.

Though it is no longer in our affordable housing plan, there are members of council and the public who will have you believe that the Pennrose site is a better option. For the reasons detailed above and more, we disagree.  Moreover, these individuals argue that if the township had refused to offer an alternative to the Pennrose property, as required by our settlement, the courts would have acquiesced to our strong-arm tactics. But that is not how things work and such a strategy would have jeopardized the entire settlement, lifted our immunity protection from interested intervening parties, exposed the township to loss of control over its zoning and could have cost the town millions.

There are numerous considerations and constraints that shape decisions regarding affordable housing and the location of development. We diligently explored the various options available to us with the township’s best interest in mind. While there is no perfect site, we believe the Miles site represents the best option given these constraints. We appreciate all of the public’s input and welcome further dialogue as we proceed toward finalizing our affordable housing plan.

As always, we welcome residents’ questions, comments, and continued dialogue. We can be reached at towncouncil@moorestown.nj.us.

Mayor Lisa Petriello
Deputy Mayor Nicole Gillespie