Bramnick tells Cranford residents that ‘750 Walnut’ answers are in Trenton

Photo by Jenny Goldberg
Q&A — Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, representing the 21st Legislative District, attended a question-and-answer event on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Kilkenny House in Cranford. Bramnick addressed questions about Mount Laurel housing in Cranford.

CRANFORD, NJ — In a small back room of Kilkenny House Restaurant and Pub in Cranford on Wednesday, Oct. 18, state Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick told about 40 Cranford residents who gathered there that the answer to their anguish about the proposal to build 900 apartments at the old Hartz Mountain property ultimately lies in Trenton.

Bramnick, a Republican, represents the 21st District, which includes Cranford.
“Let the state litigate these issues — don’t let the council and mayor hire lawyers. This should be on the back of the state,” Bramnick said at the question-and-answer session.

The proposed project, known in Cranford as “750 Walnut,” refers to the property’s address near the border with Clark, and has riled many in town. The issue has become more fraught as Hartz Mountain has invoked the spectre of a Mount Laurel housing “builder’s remedy” lawsuit to get the project approved.

“After the builder gets millions, we are left with crowded schools, streets and aging infrastructure,” Cranford resident, Lois Morrow told LocalSource on Oct. 23. “Our landscape and community ravaged. “We, the stable taxpayers of Cranford who work so hard to make our town as outstanding as it is, are crushed by the Democrat New Jersey legislature.”

Affordable housing units, sometimes referred to as “Mount Laurel housing,” were mandated in all municipalities decades ago by the New Jersey Supreme Court. Subsequent rulings have encouraged high-density housing complexes in suburban towns, allowing developers to override municipal zoning laws.

It has become a particularly hot topic in some towns during the last year as the court has reclaimed the authority to set the number of housing units each town must provide. The courts have stepped in due to the collapse of the state Council on Affordable Housing, which formerly made those decisions.

Bramnick made it clear to Cranford residents he is not against affordable housing.
“That’s not my position,” Bramnick said. “My position is that there has to be a reasonable solution and there has not been one.”
He handed out literature to Cranford residents about several legislative proposals that aim to reduce the demands of affordable housing on municipalities. One proposed bill, Assembly Bill No. 5030, prohibits the imposition of builder’s remedy in certain municipalities, providing other remedies instead.

Others include a constitutional amendment to require a statewide calculation of affordable housing obligation and the establishment of an Affordable Housing Obligation Study Commission.

Bramnick is in favor of spreading Mount Laurel requirements around, suggesting that the state Legislature “post a bill to make it regional and let the state defend the cases and argue where the units should go.”

He contended that “instead of assigning a number (of affordable housing units) to each town, it should be a regional decision.”
Bramnick said a Superior Court judge in each county decides how many affordable units each town is obligated to provide, and is prohibited from considering how they could affect the schools, police and fire departments, and property taxes.

“This is ridiculous,” the assemblyman said.
While Bramnick proposed more long-term solutions for Trenton to consider, in the immediate and short term, Bramnick urged residents to seek the advice of a land use attorney.

Inspired by Bramnick’s advice, Morrow told LocalSource that Cranford residents “need to mount a statewide campaign, with possible legal land use consultation and representation down the road.”

In previous years, Cranford spent $3 million for litigation to settle a builder’s remedy suit filed by Cranford Development Associates on the Birchwood project, an apartment complex on Birchwood Avenue near the border with Kenilworth. A settlement resulted in plans for a 225-unit complex that included 30 affordable units.

Although Hartz Mountain Industries has not yet argued for their proposed development under builder’s remedy, Bramnick contended that to push against 750 Walnut, Cranford residents “need a land use attorney to tell you what your options are. It is almost essential to hire one for a few hours.”


4 Responses to "Bramnick tells Cranford residents that ‘750 Walnut’ answers are in Trenton"

  1. Ileen Bocchino Cuccaro   October 31, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    Excellent wrap up and we next door in Garwood are going through the same thing, 350 units on one block with only 30 affordable. Population 4300 less than a square mile and only one school. We know who is going to get stuck footing the bill.. the bill that our tiny town will not be able to afford and the long term ramifications

  2. Bruce Bergen   November 1, 2017 at 11:00 am

    It is very disheartening to see Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick prey upon the fears of the residents of Cranford and Clark for his own political gain. In the past few weeks he has come out as the “champion” of those fighting the proposed over-development at 750 Walnut Avenue in Cranford, and has tried to place blame on others. But where has he been the past 8 years?
    As a Democratic candidate for Assembly in this district, as much as I do not want to make this a political issue, I feel I must speak out so there is no misunderstanding what my position is. There is absolutely no question that the proposed development by Hartz Mountain is wrong for Cranford and will have a devastating effect. It cannot be allowed to go forward as proposed. I grew up in Cranford, graduated from Cranford public schools, and though I now live in Springfield, I continue to practice law right in downtown Cranford at Cleveland Plaza (a building I attended elementary school in). There must be progress and there will be change—but it must be reasonable and cannot be allowed to damage the wonderful character and feeling of Cranford that draws so many who grew up here, back to raise their own families.
    I do believe that there is an obligation to ensure housing for all, with appropriate planning and reasonable regulation. But, the fact is, the reason Cranford, and almost every municipality in New Jersey are now bearing the burden of being in court over affordable housing issues, is because Gov. Christie allowed COAH, the state agency that was handling these matters, to wither. Where was my opponent’s opposition to the governor’s actions which caused the situation which is costing taxpayers so much money?
    I have spent most of the past 20 years representing Springfield in their housing litigation, both before COAH and more recently when we were forced into the courts. The demise of COAH was orchestrated by the governor without objection by the Republican leaders in the legislature, of which my opponent is one. After almost 14 years in the Assembly, he has finally decided to speak out—just a few weeks before an election.
    I trust the voters of Cranford, Clark and around this District will see my opponent’s posturing for what it is, and not be fooled. It is time for change in Trenton, both in the governor’s office and the legislature. Please vote Column A on November 7.

    Bruce Bergen
    Democrat for Assembly, LD21

  3. Three Card Monty   November 2, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    “I have spent most of the past 20 years representing Springfield in their housing litigation, both before COAH and more recently when we were forced into the courts.”

    So was Chairman Bergen happy when FSHC and Chairman Green forced the below settlement out of Springfield and issued a triumphant press release about it in February?

    Was that settlement the best thing for Springfield or “the best of a bad situation”?

    Does it not concern Chairman Bergen that a random South Jersey nonprofit, rolling on Lord knows how much developer cash, and Chairman Green, who doesn’t even live in Springfield’s district, were extracting settlements?

    How does anyone KNOW this was in Springfield’s best interest and not in wealthy developers’ best interest? Towns have no leverage anyway!

    Unless you’re a partisan hysteric who blinds themselves to the facts and happily drinks whatever Kool-Aid is poured for you by your party (hi guys), how do you know?

  4. Kathy Allegro   November 2, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    It’s disheartening to see Democrat Bruce Bergen continue to misstate reality. When he could not get voters on his side on this issue, one week before the election he suddenly jumps on the overdevelopment opposition bandwagon and expects voters to buy into his sudden epiphany.
    I rarely send in Letters to the Editor or respond to typical politician’s stories. However, Mr Bergen’s stories are so far from reality although he seems to believe that if he continues to speak nonsense, it will eventually become true.
    I have in other venues stated the reality that the 15 year Democratic majority in the State Assembly and Senate has done nothing to fix the mess they are creating in New Jersey towns. By the democrat’s inaction they are allowing wealthy developers to run amok through our state. By the democrat’s refusal to allow bills to be brought to the floor for debate and votes, the democrats ensure wealthy developers will be able to turn all of New Jersey into concrete without interference from any elected official. That Mr. Bergen is the reality.