Hazlet mayor: Committee will examine options for affordable housing

 Hazlet Mayor Scott Aagre and members of the Township Committee are tabling a compliance plan that called for the development of affordable housing on two neighboring parcels in Hazlet. 

A letter outlining the matter was issued by Aagre one day before committee members were scheduled to appear in state Superior Court in Freehold for a hearing on the matter. The Aug. 29 court session was canceled off by the court on Aug. 28. 

The matter pertains to the potential development of the 17-acre Holy Family School property on Route 36 and to Stone Road Meadows farm, which is across the highway.

During an Aug. 7 committee meeting, the plan met with resistance from dozens of residents who said they object to development on the parcels. 

According to a document provided by officials, the 17-acre Holy Family School property would have been rezoned to accommodate 172 housing units, of which 26 units would have been designated as affordable housing, with the remainder of the units available at market rates.

The second property, Stone Road Meadows, is a 26-acre property that could have accommodated the construction of up to 312 housing units, of which 63 units would have been designated as affordable housing.

Officials said the developments would be in compliance with Hazlet’s master plan.

Municipal officials said the potential development of the two properties would have helped Hazlet meet its state mandated obligation to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing, which is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

In his Aug. 28 letter to residents, Aagre said, “The Township Committee has rigorously been fighting a builder’s remedy lawsuit filed by a developer and the state regarding an acceptable compliance plan to meet the township’s housing requirements. Hazlet has always maintained it has never used its zoning power to exclude or discriminate low and moderate income households and that Hazlet has more than its fair share of affordable housing.

“Unfortunately, the state does not recognize the nine mobile home parks and the existing housing inventory since these were built prior to the state’s mandate and Affordable Housing Act. Hazlet is 98 percent built out and considered a metropolitan area according to the county’s Regional Strategic Plan. In a June 2018 court ordered conference, the state agreed to a proposed compliance plan.

“This compliance plan includes zoning for new affordable and market value residential units, it is the least intrusive compliance plan the state had ever agreed to and provides  protection for Hazlet from future developers coming in and densifying our current community with other potential sites through builder’s remedy lawsuits. It provides the ability for Hazlet to maintain the building controls and bulk requirements for these two proposed affordable housing sites in our current compliance plan,” the mayor wrote.

“The proposed compliance plan has been met with overwhelming resistance from our residents, which we, as elected officials, are here to listen to in making our decisions for the betterment of the township. In addition, there have been public statements by members of the Township Committee voicing their opposition to this settlement plan which does not provide the necessary support to further this plan for adoption.

“We will request from the court the ability for Hazlet to formulate a new compliance plan with the current affordable housing numbers in order to provide the town protection against future builder’s remedy lawsuits.

“At this time, I will be taking the current affordable housing compliance plan off the agenda until which time Hazlet can come up with a compliance plan that can receive a majority agreement from the Township Committee and the residents of Hazlet or as ordered by the Superior Court,” Aagre wrote.

Township Attorney James Gorman has said Hazlet’s affordable housing obligation has doubled from 400 units to 800 units since a revision in January. He said the construction of homes on the two sites in question would help Hazlet meet its new affordable housing obligation, which was set in place by a court.

Gorman said existing mobile homes in Hazlet will no longer satisfy the municipality’s affordable housing goal. New homes must be built in order to fulfill the town’s legal obligation, he said.