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.”