EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Township Committee approved a series of amendments to its zoning and affordable-housing regulations Wednesday, one of which is the subject of an ongoing legal battle with a builders trade association.
Officials say they were under pressure from state regulators and a previous lawsuit, filed in 2006 by a developer, to approve the ordinances.
One of the three ordinances adds language to the township’s individual residential zoning codes requiring new developers to set aside 20 percent of their units for low- and moderate-income households. They must also purchase Pinelands Development Credits — which are used by the Pinelands Commission to redirect growth away from preservation districts by subsidizing landowners in those districts — for 25 percent of the remaining units. As compensation, developers will be entitled to build additional units equal to half the proposed amount.
“We’ve got one state agency forcing more (housing) density on us and another forcing us to sell their credits,” said Commiteeman John Carman, the only member to vote against the ordinance. “It’s ridiculous and I’m still not in favor of it.”
Last month, the Builders League of South Jersey filed a lawsuit claiming the changes, which were first approved in December, are illegal. Developers also have said it is an unfair tax that will hurt their business.
But Vince Polistina, the township planner, contested those claims at Wednesday’s meeting. Using the example of a 10-acre parcel in a zone that would permit 20 units — or 30 units with the compensatory bonus — he said the developer would need to spend an additional $110,000. However, he said, they would also see a $110,000 profit from the sale of the additional units, based on the current $55,000 market value of an undeveloped lot.
“Essentially, half would go to subsidize affordable housing and half goes to the developer,” he said, adding that Hamilton Township has a similar affordable-housing ordinance on its books.
The other two ordinances add a definition of “impervious surfaces” to township design codes and a section concerning forestry. Both were mandated by the Pinelands Commission, officials say.
When the former ordinance was introduced earlier this year, officials were concerned that it was too broad and would affect homeowners with shell or stone driveways.
Township Administrator Peter Miller said a compromise was struck such that the ordinance now affects only developers going before township planners, not the average homeowner. It passed unanimously Wednesday.
“(The commission) originally wanted to put it in as a zoning ordinance,” he said. “But they backed off and did it as a design ordinance, instead.”
The forestry ordinance also drew the ire of the committee, although it also passed unanimously.
“We don’t even have (forestry) in our town, so this is actually a waste of time,” Carman said. “But some things aren’t worth fighting.”
Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said he also disagrees with the ordinances but that forces beyond the municipality’s control have made their passage necessary.
“Not any one of us is pleased we’re being forced ... to adopt these measures,” he said.
Township Committee also swore in three new police officers and announced a number of promotions in the Police Department.
Officers Michael Steinman and David Algeri were promoted to lieutenant. Lt. Gary Rzemyk was promoted to sergeant and Sgt. Raymond Davis was promoted to captain. Matthew Hann, Michael J. O’Hagan and Michael W. Keeping Jr. were all sworn in as police officers. Sharon Woolbert was promoted to records supervisor.
Miller said the appointments were necessitated by the forthcoming retirements of three current officers, two slated to retire by Aug. 31 and a third by Dec. 31.
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