Board of Commissioners approve agreement with affordable housing developer

Resolution passed to approve Central Jersey entity for Snowden project.

At its most recent public meeting, Haddonfield’s board of commissioners passed a resolution to enter into a professional services agreement with a Mercer County entity, to further its plans to meet state-mandated affordable-housing obligations. 

During the May 12 virtual session, borough governance approved Community Investment Strategies, Inc. from Lawrenceville, for that partnership. The company, which has operated for a quarter-century, specializes in the creation of multi-family housing, including 55-plus senior units, mixed-use redevelopments, as well as market-rate and affordable housing. 

The borough received two proposals through a formal Request for Qualifications back in late March, which yielded CIS as well as The Walters Group, which operates out of Barnegat Township, Ocean County. 

“We have been working on our affordable-housing obligations for quite some time now. We have a contract with CIS for a project that is known as Snowden. We had two qualified companies submit proposals, and in the end, and after looking at both carefully, we decided to stick with CIS for the completion of the project,” said Mayor Neal Rochford.

CIS’ proposal gained favor with the borough because of its experience in light of the impending Snowden project, whose proposed imprint is slated to be 100-percent affordable units. 

The motion to approve was 2-0 in favor, with Commissioner for Public Safety Colleen Bianco Bezich having to recuse herself from the vote. 

Bezich read a prepared statement, indicating that a conflict of interest may arise due to the fact that the law firm into which she has merged her individual practice had previous dealings with CIS. Bezich was unaware of those interactions until May 8, and CIS terminated its relationship with the firm, Mattleman Weinroth and Miller, the same day. 

“We don’t need more litigation, we don’t need more controversy as we move forward,” Borough Solicitor Mario Iavicoli said.

Iavicoli further stated he believed there would be no further conflict of interest if Bezich continued to work on the Snowden project once she had no involvement with the resolution’s approval. 

Terms of any future contract between the borough and CIS, per language in the resolution, preclude the company from making any reportable contributions to either a political or candidate’s committee for the length of that deal. 

In response to public inquiries about reducing the number of units on the Snowden site, Rochford stated that CIS, in its proposal, said it was willing to work with the borough on that point, and that it also made preliminary recommendations on alternate sites.

Original plans called for 28 units to be placed on the proposed 0.85-acre parcel, located behind Borough Hall. Due to piqued interest and concern over the density of the project, the borough agreed to work with concerned parties to try and reduce its footprint and spread out the excess units to other parts of town. 

Subsequently, commissioners approved re-zoning of certain areas, within and close to, the downtown core, which may be suitable to place affordable-housing overflow from Snowden.

The triumvirate had met in a session closed to the public on May 4, specifically to address the issue of selecting a developer for this purpose. 

In other news

  • Commissioners passed a resolution extending the date of the grace period for non-payment of second-quarter taxes from May 31 to June 1. A previous resolution, passed on April 14, set the date as May 31. The rate of interest charged during the grace period remains zero percent.   
  • Borough governance also approved a piece of legislation authorizing for additional sealed bids for electrical improvements to Kings Court. In giving assent to the move, Rochford said that two previous requests failed to yield an agreeable proposal. The deadline for this new round of submissions is set for June 3 at 10:30 a.m.