Affordable Housing, Fee Changes In Store For Stafford

Stafford Town Hall (Photo by Jason Allentoff)

STAFFORD – The Township will be changing its zoning to enforce a percentage of affordable housing on any area in town where apartments are built over commercial properties.

The zoning ordinance making this change was introduced at the January 24 meeting. It will likely have its second and final reading at the February 14 meeting.

Every municipality, by law, has to have a certain number of affordable homes. This number is based on the total number of homes in town, as well as other factors. At the end of the last round of settlements, when Stafford’s number was reached, this zoning change was one piece of the puzzle that still needed to be added, Business Administrator James Moran said.

If the change goes through, it would affect any development with multiple units, whether they are mixed-use buildings, condominiums, apartments, townhouses, or multi-family houses. Densities will be set at a minimum of six units per acre.

Additional changes include that the planning board would be able to allow an additional 10 percent less impervious coverage. This includes buildings, driveways, and any other construction that water can’t go through to the soil.

The ordinance only applies to multi-use zones, which are commercial properties with residential apartments over them. This would require 20 percent of the apartments to be affordable to people of low-to-moderate income.

In theory, it blankets the entire town, Moran said. If there is a multi-use area, this ordinance automatically applies. It also applies if any future property gets changed to a multi-use zone or if the zoning board allows a multi-use zone where it normally wouldn’t be.

Stafford Township Council Meeting Room (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

Bills and Improvements

The Township Council also awarded a bid to US Tank Painting Inc. for the painting of the Mill Creek Water Tower and the repair of the Fawn Lakes Water Tower. Councilman David Taylor said the project will take place in late February or early March.

U.S. Tank Painting was the second lowest of six bidders, according to the resolution awarding the contract. The lowest bidder failed to comply or failed to meet the specifications. The contract is for $869,000.

The Township Council also increased charges for false fire alarms.

“We’ve had significant issues with false alarms,” Moran said. “Some commercial operations will allow the false alarms to go off and will pay a modest fee rather than pay to get the fire alarm fixed.”

Mayor John Spodofora noted that it is a burden on firefighters and a burden on taxpayers by putting wear and tear on the fire vehicles.

The ordinance provides two strikes without penalty. The fee starts with the third strike. For a third offense, the fine is $350. That increases to $500 for the fourth offense, $650 for the fifth offense, and $1,000 for the sixth and any future offenses in any 12-month period.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Sharon McKenna said the township avoided $309,029 in 2016 in tipping fees by recycling. The recycling department has a list of what can and cannot be recycled and it is available through the township’s public works department.

Councilman Paul Marchal said he will be speaking with the historical society to decide what constitutes a landmark. Parts of the township’s history, like the train station and the Methodist church have a place in Stafford’s history. However, they have to be cared for.

The township might seek grants to preserve or improve historic locations.