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Sale of Fair Share Housing property to Gloucester Township Housing Authority dominates meeting conversation

The ongoing discussion has yet to be resolved

Over the past four months, Gloucester Township residents have been raising concerns over the sale of the Lakeland Complex at 401 Turnersville Road to the Gloucester Township Housing Authority (GTHA) for the development of senior affordable housing. The property has a complicated past, as it was deeded to the Housing Authority by Camden County in 2008, sold from the Housing Authority to Gloucester Township in 2012, and has now been resold from the township back to the Housing Authority in January. The discussion came to a head during the public comment portion of the April 26 Gloucester Township Council meeting,

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The questions of why the land had been sold to the township and back to the housing authority, as well as why there hasn’t been any development on that land, were answered collectively by Solicitor David Carlamere, Councilman Dan Hutchinson and Business Administrator Tom Cardis.

“We had to have the land in the township’s name to receive funding,” Cardis explained. After the township purchased the land in 2012, Cardis shared that they did try to redevelop it using Conifer, a real estate company. The initial application for the project was successful, but sometime later on, “Trenton changed the point system, and the money went to a couple of towns in North Jersey. South Jersey was completely ignored because the point system that was changed went against us,” Cardis said. Because of the lack of funding, the redevelopment plans fell through.

“Does the housing authority now have expertise that would allow them to develop this property?” Gloucester Township resident Paul Krug asked, noting that only 75 units had been delivered over the past eleven years, when “there’s supposed to be 300.”

Carlamere responded, saying that while funding had not been available over the past 12 years, now, the Housing Authority has a financial firm to come up with projects and funding.

“That’s the difference between 2012 and now,” he said.

While the question of why the land was sold back and forth has been addressed, Gloucester resident Denise Coyne’s question of why affordable trust fund money has been used to do so had gone unanswered. She asked twice, first through an online E-Gov submission, and again in person during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“The affordable housing trust fund money is supposed to be used to pay for affordable housing so the taxpayers don’t have to,” Coyne said. “It’s not supposed to be used to purchase the same piece of property twice.”

Though she was primarily asking about the transactions during 2012 and 2021, the council spent much of the time discussing the initial transaction between Camden County and the Housing Authority. Hutchinson said they needed to look into it further, and the council decided to table the discussion.

The discussion was quickly reopened when Krug, speaking immediately after Coyne, asked again why affordable trust fund money was used during the purchase and the sale of the Tax Block 12301 Lot 4, also known as the Lakeland Complex.

“This line of questioning goes back at least three months. I think at this point in time, to say ‘we need to look at it,’ ‘we need to continue to research it’ – it’s starting to get a bit long in the tooth,” Krug said. “If I’m in my board room, and I say to my leadership team, on a topic that they’ve been asking on, ‘I don’t have an answer,’ kick the can, kick the can, they’re going to throw me out of the board room. That’s how they work in the industry I’m in.

“The problem is, dealing here, the answers are typically muddied, or we continue to say ‘I don’t have the paperwork,’ even though the question was asked last week, or ‘we need more time.’”

Coyne’s other question, on whether or not the new plans would include family affordable housing (as mentioned in the ordinance passed in January 2021) when the deed has a restriction that limits the use of the property to senior affordable housing, also went unanswered.

During the last workshop meeting on April 12, many of the residents spoke on the same issues, and were directed by President Orlando Mercado and Carlamere to ask them to the housing authority directly. However, both the March meeting and April meeting, which was scheduled to take place April 13, were cancelled. When resident Ray Polidoro asked Councilwoman Carolyn Grace, the Housing Authority liaison, why this was, she said she was uninformed.

In other news:

  • Council passed a resolution joining FCR Camden in disposing recyclable materials
  • Remington and Vernick have been authorized to perform engineering services for the Blackwood Lake Dam sinkhole investigation
  • The mayor and township authorized Triad Associates to submit a grant application for the Gloucester Township Library
  • The Gloucester Township Police Department has renewed its membership in the Missing Kids Readiness Program.

The next council meeting will be in person on May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gloucester Township Municipal Building. It will also be livestreamed. There will be a hearing on the 2021-2022 budget. A notice has been given that the workshop previously scheduled for 6:30 p.m. has been cancelled.

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