Hazlet residents express outrage with township’s affordable housing plan

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HAZLET – Residents in Hazlet are continuing to state their apprehension regarding the municipality’s third round affordable housing obligation and how that state mandate will be fulfilled.

On March 5, Township Committee members adopted an ordinance that rezones property at 727 Route 36 and creates an affordable housing zoning district. Highview Homes LLC has proposed the development of no more than 146 market rate units and 26 affordable housing units at that 17-acre property. The property is owned by Holy Family Church.

The church is located across Route 36 from the 17-acre property.

Affordable housing is defined as housing that is sold or rented at below market rates to individuals and families whose income meets certain guidelines.

Mayor Scott Aagre, Deputy Mayor Michael Glackin, Committeeman James McKay, Committeeman Mike Sachs and Committeewoman Tara Corcoran-Clark voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance and rezone the Holy Family property.

During the public hearing that preceded the committee’s vote, residents expressed concern about the potential development of the property.

Angel Salerno, who lives near the site, asked why Hemlock Street is a designated egress route in the site plan for the planned residential development. She said Hemlock Street should become a dead end. Salerno also took issue with the number of units proposed in the site plan.

Aagre said the state’s affordable housing laws require Hazlet officials to provide opportunities for the development of affordable housing in the community.

“I don’t care about the affordable housing. Put up the damn (apartments) at this point. You already have that done. I care about 172 units with two cars each driving down my block every day … Let (cars drive) down (another street), but make Hemlock a dead end!” Salerno said.

Daria Kocurek, who lives next to the Holy Family property, spoke in a sarcastic tone about Highview Homes’ proposed site plan when she said, “I really like the (proposed) trash compactor that is behind my neighbor’s house. What do trash compactors collect? Trash. What does trash draw? Rats, mice rodents and noise.”

Residents said they were concerned about landscape buffers, potential tax increases and overcrowding in schools if homes are built on the designated parcel.

Municipal officials said taxes would not necessarily increase because of a specific development and said Hazlet’s schools can accommodate additional enrollment.

Some residents said members of the governing body did not do enough to “fight for” the interest of residents. During previous discussions of affordable housing, some residents have said their quality of life would be disrupted if affordable housing is constructed.

Glackin suggested that the residents should present their questions and concerns before Hazlet’s Land Use Board if a development application for the Holy Family property is ever submitted.

The Land Use Board is charged with reviewing specific aspects of a developer’s site plan, including landscaping, buffer zones and the placement of items such as trash receptacles.

Affordable housing “is not something we wanted,” Glackin said. “We got stuck between a rock and a hard place … I hate to say it, but (residents) are going to take it on the chin for us.”

The rezoning of the Holy Family property is authorized under the terms of a settlement agreement between Hazlet and Highview Homes regarding Hazlet’s compliance with New Jersey’s affordable housing regulations.

All of the homes in the development, if the project is constructed, will be available to individuals of all ages, according to municipal officials.

The ordinance states that at least 53 percent (77 units) of the proposed market rate units on the property will have one bedroom. No more than 47 percent (69 units) of the market rate units will have two bedrooms. None of the market rate units will have more than two bedrooms.

A maximum of 20 percent (five units) of the proposed affordable housing units will have one bedroom. At least 20 percent (five units) of the affordable housing units will have three bedrooms, according to the ordinance.