Township reaches affordable-housing milestone

Moorestown’s legal battle is drawing nearer to a close.

The end is near(ish).

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Moorestown Township received a conditional judgment of compliance for its affordable-housing plan, bringing the town one step closer to ending its years-long legal battle with Fair Share Housing.

“This is a huge milestone for us,” Mayor Nicole Gillespie said. 

She informed those viewing the virtual council meeting on March 8 that essentially what the judgment means is the courts have determined the township has met its constitutional obligation with regards to affordable housing.

The judgment is conditioned on the township adhering to certain criteria, 

one of which is entering into a developer agreement and finalizing a plan for the Moorestown Mall by July 26. At the March meeting, council appointed Heyer, Gruel & Associates as the township’s redevelopment planner for the project.

Gillespie explained that as the plan unfolded, council decided that the township would need a redevelopment planner to help it through the planning process so the interests of both the township and the owning company of the mall, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT),  were met.

The township issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) and received four submissions. Council subsequently narrowed the potential developers from four to two. Heyer, Gruel & Associates and Environmental Resolutions Inc. (ERI) were subsequently brought in for interviews.

Councilman David Zipin said while both candidates had compelling presentations, he leaned toward Heyer, Gruel & Associates because he felt its presentation came with a more “enthusiastic vision” that left him feeling encouraged about the mall’s future potential.

Zipin stressed that one of the challenges ahead for the township is that it will work with a private owner (PREIT) on the project whose interest is in doing what is best for its stakeholders, while the township’s interest is in doing what’s best for the future of Moorestown. That’s where a redevelopment planner comes in. 

“That is going to take somebody with a creative vision to help those two interests more closely align,” Zipin noted.

Gillespie said while all four companies that applied were qualified and the township has worked with ERI in the past, officials thought the project would benefit from some “fresh eyes.” The mayor added that Heyer, Gruel & Associates has done redevelopment work all over the state. She spoke with the mayor of Bordentown about the firm’s work there, and he told her he was happy with the result. 

The RFP included a target date of June 1 for a draft plan. That date would give council time to review the plan before it introduces an ordinance by the last meeting of June or in early July. 

Council members expressed their enthusiasm about the township’s choice of developer.

“Heyer, Gruel seems like the applicant that is going to lead us to what we see the mall could be and the best vision,” said Councilman Quinton Law.

Council’s next meeting will take place on March 22 at 7 p.m. 

 

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