Edgewater Park Is Sued Over Affordable Housing

Edgewater Park Is Sued Over Affordable Housing

By Jan Hefler, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT Inquirer correspondent Geoff Mulvihill contributed to this article

Posted: February 24, 1998

EDGEWATER PARK — A developer who wants to build 70 townhouses is suing Edgewater Park, claiming that the township has failed to provide its fair share of affordable housing.

CBD Development Inc. of Mount Laurel has filed a builder’s-remedy lawsuit in Burlington County Superior Court so that it can proceed with plans to develop a 6 1/2-acre wooded tract off Beverly-Bridgeboro Road near Route 130.

David Waronker, president of CBD, has filed or threatened to file builder’s-remedy lawsuits in several South Jersey towns, including Cinnaminson, Mount Laurel, East Greenwich and Harrison Townships.

Such suits, the result of the state Supreme Court’s decisions to open the suburbs to the poor, are used by builders to construct housing at higher densities than would be allowed by zoning laws by including units for low- and moderate-income residents.

Waronker said about 20 percent of the townhouses proposed for Edgewater Park, or 14 units, would be set aside for people with low to moderate incomes unless the state Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) wants more.

The land is zoned for commercial/industrial uses, but Waronker said courts usually order a rezoning when fair-share requirements have not been met.

Edgewater Park officials said COAH wants them to provide 50 units of affordable houses. On Feb. 18, the Township Committee announced that it was considering purchasing the decaying Irongate Apartment complex. The township would restore some of the complex’s 296 units, thereby meeting the state agency’s mandate.

But Waronker said the proposed purchase would not affect his company’s lawsuit, which was filed in early December. He said he suspected that the township’s interest in buying Irongate was orchestrated to block CBD’s project.

“It is now too late for the town to address this issue [fair-share housing] after our company took the initiative to resolve the housing issue of Edgewater Park,” Waronker said.

But Township Administrator Paul Guidry said the township did not receive notice of CBD’s lawsuit until late last week.

“If we did make this purchase, it would easily cover our COAH requirement,” Guidry said, “but we wouldn’t go into such a project exclusively for the purpose of meeting a COAH obligation. It [Irongate] is an eyesore.”

Mayor Gary Eastwick said township officials would like to take control of the half-empty complex and keep it from falling into the hands of another absentee landlord.

The Federal and National Mortgage Association began foreclosure proceedings on the property more than year ago. It had been cited for numerous violations, including leaky roofs, decaying parking lots, and poor lighting conditions.

Township Solicitor Thomas Coleman 3d said he planned to meet with FNMA officials to discuss Irongate but would not comment further on the plans, adding only that officials were exploring various options and that he had not received a copy of the CBD lawsuit.

But Waronker said that he believed a summons was served on township officials in December, notifying them of the court action. He added that he planned to arrange a settlement meeting with township officials.

“We have been developing ground for 13 years, and we have seen the resistance we get when we try to get approval for affordable housing,” he said. “We are forced to file lawsuits to get some semblance of an affordable-housing plan.”