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CentroVerde's Affordable Housing Units Could Be Moved to Other Wards

Housing Commission member says plan is 'lacking in detail' and has 'no guidelines.'

 

The township council cast doubt on where the Montclair Center Gateway Project's affordable housing units will ultimately be built on Monday evening. 

By a unanimous decision, the council passed the first reading of an ordinance which could allow the developer of the six-story CentroVerde project to build the required affordable housing units off site.   

The development sits on a 3.3-acre site that was once the DCH Auto Group dealerships on Bloomfield Avenue. The nearly 330-unit development in the 3rd Ward is located between Orange and Valley roads. By law, 10 percent of the development's units are required to be reserved for affordable housing. 

There is currently no plan to move the units off site, said Mayor Robert Jackson. The ordinance would potentially allow the township to more democratically place housing units throughout Montclair, he added. 

“I think it is shortsighted for us not at least include the possibility,” said Jackson of moving some of the affordable housing units elsewhere in the township. “... Right now, all we are saying is, ‘If something creative comes along, let’s take a look at it.’”

The ordinance did not pass without criticism. 

Fourth Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville supported placing all required affordable housing units at the CentroVerde development. 

“I think that location is an ideal location for our affordable housing units,” said Baskerville. “It opens up a world of opportunities: it’s on bus lines, ... you can walk to the several grocery stores, you can walk to the museum .... all types of things.”

At Baskerville’s recommendation, the council approved language to the ordinance to provide additional procedures in selecting affordable housing tenants and oversight by the Montclair Housing Commission, among other things. 

“I particularly like that factor because it really puts some controls in here for us so we know how these units are going to be administered,” said Baskerville. 

The ordinance passed that evening will be referred to the Montclair Planning Board and Housing Commission for further recommendations. 

However, many of the members of Housing Commission were present at the meeting and spoke against the ordinance. 

“The ordinance as it stands is lacking in detail,” said Tessa Schultz, a member of the Housing Commission. “It is vague; it has no guidelines; there is nothing to prevent putting all of the units ... in the 4th Ward.” 

Deirdre Malloy, another member of the Housing Commission, said that with no current plan to move the units elsewhere in town, the ordinance is like putting the cart before the horse. 

“I think this particular ordinance needs to be tabled,” said Malloy, “because it opens up to other challenges for other developers, possible legal issues, we don’t know. So to prevent all of that, it would be in the township’s best interest to take it off the table, review it, and thoroughly vet it.”

ira shor October 17, 2012 at 02:56 PM
How can the new TC so quickly tarnish its integrity and credibility? The immense, out-of-scale CV dev was sold to us with promises of badly-need low-income housing onsite. Now, TC quietly begins shadowy process to release CV dev corp of its promises to put affordable apts. there. This is bait-and-switch, a commercial scam, sucking up to CV dev corp which prefers high-end units in town ctr. TC continues as an arm of real est dev who control this town. Similar to the stealthy way BOE last year under Pres. Shelly Lombard quietly ended parental choice when it designated specific elem schls as "feeder schls" to specific middle schls. Parents used to initiate the choice of their kids' mdl schls. This smart town deserves a TC and a BOE which operate in the town interest, out in the open not in the shadows. TC, BOE and town officials require constant oversight by community to stop driving Mtc in the wrong directions.
Cary Africk October 17, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Ira, You are right on target with this one! The Sienna has affordable units, whereas the market rate would have been up to $1MM. These units belong in CV, not elsewhere. By the way, the Ordinance referred to required 20%, not 10% of the CV units to be affordable. The Council already "gave in" with a significant give back, agreeing to 10%.
spotontarget October 17, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Too limited thinking here above. Maximize rateable values in the location existing and have the flexibility, but not be required, to move the to be provided affordable units to other locations - dollar for dollar -- if it makes economic and quality of life sense. It's not a requirement, it's not a must to move under the new ordiance. It's just the potential for negotiated flexibility. You can start crying foul when you see the value of an affordable "contribution" elsewhere that is not of equal value or equal benefit in some way. Until then, allow the players to engage in business negotiations that make sense. If we start to give away the store again, everyone watching can light the fire.
Cary Africk October 17, 2012 at 07:34 PM
If we are to negotiate, this "negotiation" could have been "up front" with the old council. The developer didn't wake up one day and say "gee, I've great a great idea!" I say "negotiation" because this area was declared an area in need of development which essentially allows zoning to be thrown out the window and replaced by an agreement between the developer and the council. It also precedes any "PILOT" agreement which would lower the developer's taxes. The "idea" of relocated AH should have been discussed "up front." This is NOT about "ratables." This is about affordable housing. It it were about ratables we wouldn't even be discussing PILOT agreements. And let's play with some numbers. The condos at Sienna, which has affordable units, probably sell between $600K to $1MM. So let's say CV did go "condo." Let's even "low ball" the condo price to $500K. Let's say in order to make these affordable the developer has to sell them at $100K. That's a loss of 35 times $400K or $14MM. So, if we do decide to let the developer relocate, we should then ask for $14MM. UP FRONT. The same scenario could be raised for rentals. Only in this case let's say the developer is "only" losing $1k per month. At 35 units, over 30 years, that's $12.6MM.
spotontarget October 18, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Without addressing the specifics of your numbers, you are conceptually 'spotontarget' Mr. Africk. If a developer will lose substantially more money keeping AH units within the current build location, we should be able to leverage many more affordable housing opportunities from them if moving the contribution to another location. And if they don't want to negotiate and and pay out equally for the real value lost within the development, we just say go ahead and fulfill your requirement where you are currently building. Seems like a no lose leverage position to me especially for high end larger developments. BTW - I read that this idea came from the current council - not your past colleagues or the Verde' developer.
Cary Africk October 18, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Not sure where the idea came from, but certainly not the former council. Since this developer appears to be the only developer Montclair is working with on these large projects, it's the job of the Mayor and appropriate members of the administration to meet with him. Who knows? The developer suggested it, the Mayor, whatever! BTW - As part of the agreement on CV the developer initially indicated he would be willing to refurbish the fountain area by the BOE. It certainly needs to be demolished and rebuilt and the roads re-constructed. But then the agreement was "downgraded" into improving the "public area" in front of the BOE. That lasted for a couple of weeks and last I heard the talk is instead of a piece of "public art," whatever that means.

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