The township council will have sole discretion over where Montclair Center Gateway Project’s affordable housing units will end up.
The council voted to give itself the power to potentially move the project's 30 affordable housing units to another location. Councilor Renee Baskerville alone voted against the ordinance.
“All we [the mayor and council] are saying is, ‘Let’s see if something is out there,’” said Mayor Robert Jackson.
“If something interesting comes up that seems like it ... fosters some developments in other parts of town ... and makes sense, the council has the wherewithal to say, ‘...Let’s take a look at it.’”
The ordinance allows the council to approve an alternate plan to place the affordable housing units elsewhere in town. If no plans are proposed or the council is not in favor of them, the units will remain in CentroVerde.
“We’re trying to give [the developer] a chance to think outside the box,” said Councilor Rich McMahon.
The 3.3-acre, six-story development is located between Orange and Valley roads. The nearly 330-unit project, also known as CentroVerde, is in the 3rd Ward.
By law, 30 units -- 10 percent of the development's overall units -- are required to be reserved for affordable housing.
Allowing the developer to move the affordable housing units off-site may allow the township to more equitably place those units in Montclair’s four wards, said the mayor and council.
“We have a 15-plus year history of abject failure of spreading affordable housing throughout the township,” said Jackson. “That’s undeniable.”
Affordable housing in town is primarily located in the 3rd and 4th wards, which have 117 and 545 units, respectively. The 1st Ward has none, and the 2nd Ward has only eight.
The ordinance gives the council “flexibility,” said Councilor Sean Spiller. “We need that flexibility because the numbers don’t lie in this instance. You look at the breakdown for where all the affordable housing is, and it is not spread out through the township.”
While Jackson confirmed there are currently no proposals to place the units elsewhere, he did not see that as a problem at this time.
“So right now, [the affordable housing units] will be in CentroVerde,” Jackson said.
Housing Commissioners Want Affordable Housing to Remain in CentroVerde
Members of the Montclair Housing Commission spoke against moving the affordable housing units out of CentroVerde.
The ordinance opens the door for creating “exclusively luxury apartments” that exclude the affordable housing units altogether, suggested Housing Commissioner William Scott.
Chair of the Housing Commission Tessa Schultz said there are few other locations in town that offer the amenities and opportunities found at CentroVerde.
"We are ... against removing affordable housing from a redevelopment that is conveniently located near transportation, schools, shopping, religious centers. Everything we strive for in affordable housing is right here."
“It’s an opportunity for people to be in newer housing central to very necessary amenities,” added commissioner Deirdre Malloy.
Jackson said that he and the council are committed to affordable housing in Montclair, and added that the commissioners were being myopic in their reasoning.
“You are telling us to preclude creativity,” said Jackson. “... Because if you don’t want to do it here or you don’t want to try it or give the opportunity, you’re saying, ‘Let’s eliminate, let’s preclude the possibility that somewhere down the road, someone might have the creative approach that may satisfy affordable housing.’”