Cinnaminson Is Searching For Space For More Housing The State Is Requiring It To Provide 351 Affordable Units. But There Are Few Suitable Sites Left To Develop.

Cinnaminson Is Searching For Space For More Housing The State Is Requiring It To Provide 351 Affordable Units. But There Are Few Suitable Sites Left To Develop.

By Karen Auerbach, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

Posted: October 27, 1996

CINNAMINSON — When John Hunter’s ancestors purchased land here 16 years before America gained its independence from Britain, their farm stretched over 1,000 acres, sprawling across the borders of three future towns.

More than two centuries later, Hunter and his family grow sweet corn and sweet potatoes on 115 acres that are practically boxed in by industry and housing developments.

Years ago, developers approached the Hunters about purchasing their land. They said no, and eventually, the inquiries petered out. The family still has no intention of selling, said Barbara Hunter, John’s wife.

“This is more than a family farm; it’s a tradition, it’s a heritage,” she said.

As Cinnaminson struggles to provide affordable housing, however, its waterfront and the few remaining farms – the last ties to the town’s rural past – are virtually the only undeveloped spaces.

With Burlington County Superior Court reviewing Cinnaminson’s zoning laws as a result of lawsuits by two developers, Cinnaminson officials are looking at the township’s undeveloped land to determine where state-mandated affordable housing can be built.

Cinnaminson has no apartment complexes or single-family housing for low- to moderate-income families.

The township Planning Board this month gave the court its preliminary recommendations for a fair-share plan, which will determine how the township fulfills its state requirement of 351 affordable-housing units.

The recommendations identify six large sites and 11 smaller ones where the township could permit development of affordable housing. Among the properties are the Hunters’ farm and the Armstrong farm on the township’s Moorestown border, plus two Delaware River waterfront properties owned by the developers whose lawsuits forced the township to draft the plan.

CBD Development Inc., general partner in Harbour Reef Ventures, sued the township in May, alleging that the Planning Board evaded affordable-housing laws by rejecting the developer’s plans to build a 117-unit complex near River Road and Taylors Lane. Justin Spain, a Cinnaminson real estate agent, has been trying to develop the land for years. He sold the land to CBD about four years ago, but is a partner in Harbour Reef Ventures.

The Planning Board rejected CBD’s Harbour Reef application in April, after residents opposed it because of environmental concerns.

The dispute was not about affordable housing, residents and township officials say. But because Cinnaminson did not have an affordable-housing plan, CBD was able to sue the township based on the state Supreme Court’s 1983 Mount Laurel II decision, which provided developers with legal redress for restrictive zoning.

A second developer, Cresmont Limited Partnership, filed a similar lawsuit in June against the township. Cresmont never formally applied to the Planning Board for its proposed 579-unit Harbour View waterfront development on River Road, although it presented its plans to the Township Committee earlier this year, said Leo Holt, a principal partner in Cresmont and son of Delaware River waterfront entrepreneur Thomas Holt.

Cresmont’s suit also claims that the zoning ordinances kept out affordable housing.

CBD’s lawsuit claims that “Cinnaminson has affirmatively excluded most low- and moderate-income families and larger families from renting and/or owning residential units within the township.”

To allow for affordable housing in Cinnaminson, the township must change the zoning of various areas to permit residential development. The two waterfront sites already allow for that, but David Waronker, president of CBD Development, said other restrictions that prevent the construction of affordable housing prompted him to sue the township.

Of the total number of units in both developments under the original plans, 73 were to be affordable housing.

Even with those complexes, however, the township would be hundreds of units short of its state mandate. Planning Board Chairwoman Nancy Myers said Cinnaminson hoped to reduce the number of required units by receiving credit for existing housing, such as motels along Route 130 where welfare recipients live.

While the township planner and Planning Board, under court supervision, devise an affordable-housing plan, CBD Development is pressing ahead with plans for Harbour Reef. The state Department of Environmental Protection is expected to rule on CBD’s application for a waterfront development permit on Nov. 22, a decision that was postponed from last Thursday. Waronker said that even if the application were denied, he would change his plans for Harbour Reef from 117 townhouses to 178 apartments, with 15 percent to 20 percent to be affordable housing.

“This time there’s no holds barred,” Waronker said. “This time, we’re going to get exactly what we’re entitled to and get this matter behind us already.”