The Egg Harbor Township Committee approved a settlement Wednesday that would allow the developers of nearly 100 acres off English Creek Avenue to build 223 units, 20 percent of which would be affordable to low- and moderate-income households.
After six years of legal wrangling, the township came to an agreement with English Creek Manor Ltd. this summer. The developers filed a lawsuit in 2006, claiming the township had failed to live up to its state-mandated obligation to build housing for low- and moderate-income families.
This settlement allows English Creek Manor to build 223 units on nearly 56 acres off Winnipeg Avenue, with a maximum density of four units per acre. A prior settlement that would have allowed 572 units on the full 95-acre parcel failed in 2010.
Nearly 40 acres of the land won’t be developed and will instead be sold to the township as open space at a cost of $40,000 per acre, Township Solicitor Marc Friedman said.
The settlement also gives the developer 18 years to build a minimum of 28 single-family homes along Winnipeg Avenue or else construct a 50-foot landscaped buffer along both sides of the street.
Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said the settlement is an unfortunate case of the municipality having to pay for flawed mandates handed down by the state.
“This is something we didn’t want — it was forced upon us,” he said.
However, McCullough said the settlement is more favorable than the previous one and ends a long, expensive legal battle. Those costs exceed $250,000, Township Administrator Peter Miller said.
No members of the public spoke at the Township Committee meeting Wednesday, but Friedman read into the record a letter of support from Linwood attorney Michael Malinsky, who represents nearby homeowners who had opposed the 2010 settlement.
“My clients are amenable to the final version of the settlement,” Malinsky wrote.
Committeewoman Laura Pfrommer, who also lives near the site, said she had attended the meeting two years ago as a citizen opposed to that prior settlement. She voted in favor of the new agreement, but urged residents to be wary of who they elected to state office.
“This is my neighborhood, I don’t want it there, I don’t have a choice, but we have to be vigilant for the future,” she said.
The ordinance authorizing the settlement was approved in a 3-1 vote, with Committeeman John Carman casting the opposing vote. Committeeman Paul Hodson was absent from the meeting.
“This deal is much better than what we faced initially,” Carman said. “With that said, this ordinance will distort the character of that neighborhood.”
Similarly, Carman said creating a special affordable housing zone, AH-RG-4, exclusively for this development is tantamount to “spot zoning.”
“If we were doing this on our own, I think any court in the state would throw it out,” he said.
Given the glut of housing left over from the real estate boom, Committeeman Joe Cafero said there’s a lot of inventory already in the township.
“Hopefully this project never will come to fruition,” he said.
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