Affordable Housing Approved
On May 7th, state Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson approved West Windsor’s affordable housing plan, after the township reached a settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center (FHSC) of Cherry Hill last October. Under the agreement, the township will provide for 1,125 units of very-low, low-, and moderate-income housing, receiving 375 bonus credits for rental homes, for a total of 1,500 units.
This agreement and ruling came after FHSC sued West Windsor for not providing enough affordable housing, and Judge Jacobson ruling last year that 1,500 units must be developed. As part of the settlement that was recently approved by Judge Jacobson, part of these 1,500 units will consist of housing units that are already being constructed. These 1,500 units fulfill the township’s Third Round Obligation (the period between 1999-2025).
As Planning Board Chairman Gene O’ Brien explained, “a unit that is constructed to satisfy the state’s definition of an affordable housing unit allows the municipality one credit. If the unit is to be rental instead of ownership by the occupant, that provides for a bonus credit.”
Since the agreement in October, the Township has prepared to implement the necessary changes to its development strategy. O’Brien noted, “The board has made some amendments to our land use as part of our Master Plan. The change was to recommend classifying certain parcels of land to be used for mixed use or residential development. These changes were then translated into ordinances that were approved by the Township Council.”
Now that the Council has updated its land ordinances, the onus is upon the developers of the properties in question to submit an application, get approval from the Planning Board, and begin construction. Currently, various developers are meeting with the Technical Review Committee to finalize the specifics of their plans before they are submitted to the Planning Board.
AvalonBay Communities is planning a mixed-use development, with 37,000 square feet of commercial/retail space and a hotel, along with 800 residential units, of which the township anticipates 99 affordable family rental units. The project will be built upon the 24-plus acres on the corner of Station Drive and Washington Road. Currently, the developer is working with the Technical Review Committee, as well as NJ Transit, due to proximity to parking space, as well as Mercer County, since this development will impact Route 571.
The 25-acre Roseland site, owned by Mack Cali, is located on Route 1 north, between Carnegie Center Drive and Meadow Road. Based on discussions with Mack Cali, it is estimated that construction on the site will yield 492 market-rate units and 164 affordable units. The developer is currently working with the Technical Review Committee.
The Heritage at West Windsor project, which would be developed by American Properties, would be located to the north of Old Trenton Road and have frontage on both Old Trenton and Princeton-Hightstown roads in the southeast corner of the township. The developer has presented a concept plan for 185 townhomes with at least 25 set-aside for affordable housing. The developer is currently working with the Technical Review Committee.
For AvalonBay Communities, Roseland, and the Heritage at West Windsor property, West Windsor Land Use Manager Sam Surtees expects public hearings by the end of the year. The Princeton Theological Seminary/Woodstone Property is ahead of this process, having already received approval from the Planning Board, and construction is expected to start later this year. A total of 12 residential buildings are proposed, including 89 affordable units. They are currently in resolution compliance review, after which they can begin construction.
Garden Homes is proposed to have 588 rentals, which would include 147 affordable units. The project would be located on a 64-acre site that has access to Route 1 north and Meadow Road. The property is south of Route 1 and adjacent to Meadow Lane Apartments and Windsor Woods. The developer has yet to submit the site plan, after which they will go through Technical Review Committee.
Simialrly, the 400 Steps development, named for its approximate distance from the Princeton Junction train station, has yet to reach the Technical Review Committee. The property area for the development was recently condemned by the township, who have taken over it with eminent domain. Currently, the 400 Steps developers are going through the condemnation process in court. As Mayor Marathe emphasized, the developers “are bearing all the cost of condemnation, so taxpayers have not paid a penny for the cost of condemnation and for purchasing the land.”
Lastly, two properties on Princeton Hightstown Road are also slated for affordable housing units. The Sun Bank property on 47 Princeton Hightstown Road, and the Dr. Mian property on 55 Princeton Hightstown Road, are both part of the Princeton Junction Redevelopment Area and included as part of the township’s plan to reach 1,500 units. The Sun Bank property received a use variance for a daycare center and are now going through the Technical Review Committee. Meanwhile, the Dr. Mian property will be coming in for a conceptual review in front of the Planning Board, but there is no site plan application yet.
Currently, the plan does not include any properties from the Howard Hughes site, or from the Celebrations @ West Windsor property,
With the plan in motion, there are some concerns of how this increase in housing units will affect West Windsor. A main and ongoing concern has been the increase in schoolchildren in the township, and the constraints of the school district in general. To prepare for these concerns, Mayor Marathe noted that the township communicated in advance with the school district, in order to help them plan acordingly. “The referendum put out last year (in regard to increasing the capacity of Maurice Hawk, HSS, and CMS) was based on the expected increase from affordable housing. We work very closely with Dr. Aderhold and the school staff to keep them updated on what is happening in the township and how many apartments and houses will be completed.”
Another concern is the expected traffic increase. “Currently, our roads are just not numerous enough to serve all the people who are going to live in West Windsor when this is all built,” Council President Alison Miller said. She added that Princeton University’s proposed overpass between Harrison Street and Fischer Place may help traffic near Route 1, but will require support from the state as well.
Overall despite the obstacles in the process, Mayor Marathe believes West Windsor acted proactively to deal with the affordable housing issue. “I think we did a wonderful job in satisfying our requirement with as little overcrowding and school impact as we possibly good. Not only did West Windsor identify the sites, but we have already rezoned the properties and have ordinances to go with it. Judge Jacobson commended us in her ruling, saying that we have gone above and beyond what is required, which is why she approved the plan with complimentary comments.”
O’Brien also noted that the affordable housing agreement helped save tax dollars that would have gone into drawn out legal proceedings. Through the agreement, “West Windsor avoided protracted legal proceedings, which would have cost the township a considerable amount of money. By agreeing to the 1,500 units, the mayor and council automatically saved hundreds of thousands in legal fees,” O’Brien said, referring to the cost of previous affordable housing legal battles.
View Online Publication
View Print Publication