Town Could Be Sued For Denying 100 Homes

(Micromedia File Photo)

  HOWELL – After the recent rejection of a developer’s 100 age-restricted housing units, the Township Council might be facing litigation as a result.

  At a recent meeting, the members of the council disagreed on whether the development should be authorized or not. By rejecting the developer’s agreement, they might be allowed to now build 408 unrestricted units.

  Back in 2018, the project known as “The Fountains” was approved by the Howell Planning Board to construct 105 age-restricted residential units in several multi-story buildings on Route 9 north.

  A settlement agreement created many years ago states that if the 100-unit development is opposed, then the developer is permitted to build 408 unrestricted units, Township Attorney Joe Clark explained.

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  When a motion was made to approve the developer’s agreement for The Fountains, Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Thomas Russo, Councilman John Bonevich, Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell and Councilwoman Pamela Richmond voted “no” and the motion failed.

  “Now that we don’t have a developer’s agreement in place, what would you like me to do? Because we are going to be in litigation very shortly, and don’t forget that a settlement agreement with this developer allows them to build 408 residential units,” Clark said. “How would you like me to handle it?”

  Bonevich said, “the developer’s agreement was pre-made, so have them come back and talk to us.”

  “They got Planning Board approval for their 100 age-restricted units in 2018 and they’re deeding over developable land where 26 residential units were going to be, but now we are going to have 408 units, so what would you like me to talk to them about?” Clark said.

  Richmond proposed to litigate the development.

  “I’m fine with that. I don’t like the four stories,” Bonevich said. According to the proposed plans, the development would be taller than current zoning ordinances allow for.

  “It was grandfathered in under the earlier zoning ordinance that allowed for 60 feet height and four stories,” Clark said, since the project got approval from the planning board in 2008.

  After this discussion, Russo made a motion to reconsider the vote on the developer’s agreement.

  “I’ll second the motion considering we go from 100 units to 408 and obviously this community continuously is concerned with overdevelopment, and I think the extra 308 units would certainly lend itself to over-development,” O’Donnell said.

  “With all due respect and playing the political game, this is what the Democrats want. They think we should vote ‘no’ on all this development, giving them what they want. We are obliging, I am a servant of the people, this is what they want,” Richmond said.

  On a second call, Richmond, Bonevich and Berger maintained their “no” votes causing the motion to fail again.

  Any litigation that may be filed concerning The Fountains, Berger asked Clark to fight against it.