Home Moorestown News Mayor’s Column: Moorestown’s affordable housing plan

Mayor’s Column: Moorestown’s affordable housing plan

Mayor Nicole Gillespie addresses township’s realistic development potential and unmet need.

In my last Mayor’s message column (https://thesunpapers.com/2022/04/25/mayors-column-affordable-housing-2/), I wrote about the good news that Moorestown has received a final Judgment of Compliance and Repose on our Housing Element and Fair Share Plan, gave an overview of the plan and explained the difference between realistic development potential and unmet need. 

Essentially, because the township does not have sufficient vacant land available to develop that number of units we are obligated to provide (which was set at 1,167 in our 2018 settlement agreement), our plan specifies that our realistic development potential (RDP) is 633 units, leaving us with an “unmet need” of 534 units. 

Our 2018 settlement addresses unmet need through the creation of overlay zones that permit the development of residential uses as an option to the existing commercial use at the Moorestown Mall, the KMart Plaza and the Lenola Town Center. Residential development in the overlay districts is not required, but if it does occur, one in five of the new residential units must be set aside as an affordable unit. Critically, residential development in the overlay zones ONLY counts toward unmet need; it does not count toward the 633 units of RDP. So even if we added 534 affordable units to the 3 overlay zones, we would STILL have an obligation to add an additional 633 units to meet RDP.

Residential development at the Moorestown Mall will likely start later this year. There are a total of 375 units planned, 75 of which will be set aside as affordable, reducing our unmet need to 459. The overlay zoning at the mall permits additional residential development ONLY if significant portions of the mall are demolished.

The owners of the mall (PREIT) are investing in developing new commercial opportunities at the mall and Cooper Health is building a new facility where Sears used to be, so that level of demolition is not happening in the foreseeable future. We’ve seen misleading articles stating that there will be over 1000 units built at the mall, but we want it to be clear that that level of development will not be permitted until and unless most of the mall is demolished.

One of the new RDP development sites planned is the property near the corner of Borton Landing and Hartford Road. That property is owned by Lockheed Martin and, although currently leased for farming, it is zoned for industrial use. This property was proposed to the township in exchange for the Nagle tract (corner of Hartford Road and Centerton Road) after Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy identified national security risks with developing residential units at that location (https://bit.ly/LockheedMartinLetters.) 

Plans for that site include 152 units, 76 of which would be affordable units if the township can obtain appropriate funding. If we are unable to obtain funding, the total number of units won’t change, but only 46 will be affordable and the township will need to purchase more homes to sell at below market rate, at significantly more expense to the taxpayers. 

As I said in my last column, affordable housing is a complex topic, and the Judgment of Compliance and Repose is the result of years of hard work by many people, starting well before I or any of the current council members were in office. While the plan is not perfect, this and previous councils have worked hard to do the right thing for Moorestown, providing our fair share of affordable housing and avoiding costly and damaging builder’s remedy lawsuits.

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