Court Permits Homes In Edgewater Park The Developer Had Sued To Build 77 Units After The Town Neglected To Address Its Affordable-housing Obligation.
By Wendy Ginsberg, INQUIRER SUBURBAN STAFF
Posted: October 27, 2000
EDGEWATER PARK — An oversight by elected officials that occurred seven years ago has resulted in a recent court decision to allow 77 homes to be built in this 2.5-square-mile community and possibly raise taxes, township officials said.
Last week’s Superior Court decision was a result of a previous Township Committee’s failure to zone for 50 units of affordable housing recommended by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), an 11-member agency appointed by the governor to help communities devise plans for their affordable-housing obligations.
In 1993, COAH sent a letter to Jay Gill, then the mayor of Edgewater Park, that detailed the obligation to provide 50 units.
But Edgewater Park officials never responded to the letter or made any attempt to change the township’s housing plans.
Committeeman Bob Dovey, who was on the committee at the time,said he never knew about the letter.
“In 1997, it was brought to our attention that we had a COAH obligation. We were shocked,” he said.
Because Edgewater Park did not have a plan to provide affordable housing, CBD Development Inc., the contractor that will build the 77 homes, sued the township for approval to build and won its case last week.
CBD Development will build 53 homes on two parcels behind the Kove catering complex on Route 130. Another 24 homes are planned for a plot behind the Armadillo Steak House off Bridgeboro Road.
“This is not good for Edgewater Park,” Dovey said. “These new homes mean about 40 new students. That’s two new classrooms.”
Dovey said more homes would only increase the tax strain. Currently, for every $1 in tax money the township takes in, $1.15 is spent on municipal services such as trash and leaf collection, he said.
Although the lawsuit filed by Mount Laurel-based CBD Development resulted from the township’s not fulfilling its affordable-housing requirements, the 77 new homes will not be for low- or moderate-income buyers. CBD president David Waronker said the company opted instead to give $20,000 per unit to the township for the 11 affordable homes it was required to build.
The 1983 Mount Laurel II court decision allows municipalities or developers to pay other municipalities to take up to 50 percent of their overall affordable-housing requirement.
Beverly, for example, will receive $1.7 million from Mount Laurel over the next six years to refurbish 85 affordable-housing units in the small riverfront community.
Edgewater Park plans to give the $220,000 to Woodlynne, Camden County, to fulfill its COAH obligation. The township says its remaining obligation of 39 units is already accounted for in the form of existing group homes.
Waronker said he hoped to break ground on the project in March, provided he received the proper permits. The units will be single-family, detached homes with lots at a minimum of 53,000 square feet each. The cost for each, he estimated, will be between $150,000 and $170,000.
In Edgewater Park, the average cost of a home is about $100,000.
According to Dovey, township officials had believed that many of the community’s apartments and condominiums, which amounted to half of its housing, would qualify as affordable, Dovey said. They did not.
Shirley Bishop, COAH’s executive director, said the formula used to determine a township’s COAH obligations takes into account only complexes and homes built from 1980 to the present. Dovey said most of Edgewater Park’s apartments and condominiums were built in the mid-1970s, and an appeal by the township went unheard.
“We don’t know if those units are occupied by low- and moderate-income families,” Bishop said of apartment and condo complexes constructed before 1980. “And there’s no guarantee the housing will always be affordable.”
Dovey and the other committee members then had to scramble to create a master plan that included the 50 affordable-housing units.
Meanwhile, CBD Development had already filed its lawsuit.
“Unfortunately, we were a day late and a dollar short,” Dovey said.
Wendy Ginsberg’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org