SUMMIT, NJ — From a dog park to a community garden, residents offered suggestions for what should be included in an affordable housing redevelopment project slated for Broad Street, Morris Avenue and Maple Street on March 19.
Last year, Mayor Nora Radest and the Summit City Council charged Topology, a Newark-based urban planning firm, with preparing an investigative study and planning report.
The area, approximately 8.5-acres located in the center of Summit, includes the city’s library, fire department and post office, a 125-unit senior housing complex managed by the Summit Housing Authority and the local YMCA. The tract was declared a non-condemnation “area in need of redevelopment” in September 2017.
Summit spokesperson Amy Cairns told LocalSource that the firehouse is the only structure set to be rebuilt in another location, while the library, YMCA, post office, City Hall and housing complex are to remain, with the development to be built around it.
While a third of the study area is owned by the city, several privately owned properties are also part of the area, including: Belle Faire Cleaners, Reincarnation Salon, 7-Eleven, the Bradley, Brough & Dangler Funeral Home and its driveway, medical offices and Otterstedt Insurance.
“At this time, the city of Summit does not plan to purchase any property in the redevelopment area,” Cairns told LocalSource in a March 20 email.
Eminent domain will not be used, Annie Hindenlang, Topology’s redevelopment planner, confirmed at the March 19 meeting.
“The private properties will have to be negotiated between any private developer or purchaser without the city’s involvement. This is the very beginning of the planning process. We don’t have any developers, numbers or uses in mind,” Hindenlang said.
“We start from the framework of the community.”
The next step in the process will be another community meeting, which will present publicly influenced preferences, narrowed down, she said.
“This will be more of a presentation, with question-and-answer format, rather than a forum like this,” the planner said. “We will then put this plan into an request for qualifications, to test the project against the market, to see if this can all be incorporated.”
While planning is still in its early stages, the project is certain to include subsidized housing units to meet Summit’s Mount Laurel obligation, Cairns told LocalSource.
The city made an agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center, the Cherry Hill-based affordable housing advocacy nonprofit group, in October 2016, which holds Summit accountable for generating 50 rental or sale units by 2025.
Some New Jersey municipalities must zone for housing units for low- and moderate-income residents, according to a landmark 1975 Mount Laurel decision by the state Supreme Court.
More than 190 municipalities have already reached agreements with the Cherry Hill-based FSHC, approximately half of all 350 municipalities expected to reach their obligations through a court process, Anthony Campisi of the FSHC told LocalSource.
Municipalities that are not participating in a court-negotiated settlement, “either don’t have obligations, or have very small obligations because they’re in parts of the state that are environmentally sensitive,” Campisi said.
Those municipalities “may also have very little housing demand or are being covered by separate court orders,” Campisi added.
For the municipalities that have not yet reached an agreement, a recent ruling by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson earlier this month may influence their number. She concluded that New Jersey must add approximately 155,000 Mount Laurel units by 2025.
However this obligation “won’t effect any city, like Summit, that already has an agreement in place,” Campisi said. “As long as a municipality continues to follow the terms of the settlement agreement, it is protected from further litigation.”
However, the recent ruling does provide a roadmap for future court-approved settlements, Michael Darcy, executive director for the New Jersey League of Municipalities, told LocalSource in a March 22 phone interview.
“Most of the state is looking at this Mercer County ruling as an indicator as to how the courts will tackle the task and methodology behind calculating affordable housing,” Darcy said.