WALL TOWNSHIP – Dozens of residents packed a special meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday night to hear, and scrutinize, the plans for a proposed affordable housing development on State Highway 34.
The proposed 110-unit apartment complex is the latest New Jersey development that is looking to use funding made available after Hurricane Sandy to provide housing options to still-displaced storm victims.
And it is the latest proposed project for which the developers do not know how many Sandy victims, if any, would actually reside in the complex.
Below are five topics that were discussed during Wednesday night’s meeting:
WHAT IS PROPOSED: TRG NJ V, LLC., a subsidiary of the Connecticut-based The Richman Group, plans to build eight, three-story rental apartment buildings with a total 110 one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The complex – which would be located off of State Highway 34, near Megill Road – would also include a community building, an outdoor play area and 220 parking spaces for residents and visitors. The residential buildings would be situated around a “community green space.”
AFFORDABLE HOUSING: All of the rental units would classify as affordable housing and help the township toward its affordable housing obligations. According to Richard Truslowe, who represented The Richman Group at the meeting, rent for the units would vary depending on a funding formula and the residents’ income. The annual income, which would have to be verified to be approved for residency, is expected to range from $6,200 for the least expensive one-bedroom units to $52,000 for the most expensive three-bedroom unit. The complex would also include six “supportive housing” units that would be occupied by disabled residents.
SANDY FUNDING: The project is expected to cost “slightly less than $30 million” but $16 million is expected to come from the Fund for Restoration of Multifamily Housing, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s CDBG Sandy Disaster Recovery Program. This means displaced Hurricane Sandy victims would be given priority in the application process. However, Truslowe admitted it was “hard to say” how many Sandy victims, if any, would still need housing when the project is ready for occupancy in roughly three years. The developer is also looking to pay the township a Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, and since a portion of the development would be paid for with Sandy relief money, the township would not have to contribute anything toward the project from its affordable housing trust fund, officials said.
TRAFFIC: The residential buildings would be located off State Highway 34, between Megill Road and Campus Parkway. According to Justin Taylor, a traffic expert representing the applicant, access in and out of the development would be limited to a driveway – one lane in each direction – that connects to Route 34. The access plan has received approval from the state Department of Transportation, he said. Taylor asserted that the traffic impact of the residential complex would be less than, or no worse than, the 275,000-square-foot office building that is already approved for the 47-acre property. However, residents and zoning board members expressed several concerns, including that the applicant’s traffic study was conducted on a weekday in January and did not take summer traffic into consideration.
CRIME: Several residents in the audience voiced concern about if the development would result in an increase in crime. Truslowe assured the audience that the property’s management would conduct criminal background checks and that anyone convicted of a prior felony, as well as any sex crimes or offenses against children, would be denied approval. He said that some applicants with prior misdemeanors might also be denied approval, depending on the offenses. And in response to a question from the public, Truslowe added that applicants would also have to provide valid government-issued identification in order to be approved for residency.