Your town is under assault by NJ courts (Opinion)
The courts in NJ have been ruling against local towns as municipal leaders struggle to stop over-development. In some towns, developers are taking advantage of affordable housing rules and forcing thousands of new units into towns, which simply lack the infrastructure to handle. Infrastructure regarding power, water, school, roads and traffic are among the top concerns along with a likely spike in taxes.
I'm standing with the mayors as they push fight this winnable but uphill fight. Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith joined me on the morning show and wrote a thoughtful article explaining what we're up against.
Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith is our guest contributor this week. If you would like to be a guest contributor and write a post for our website, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Mayor Al Smith
The current court-driven Affordable Housing process is broken and causing massive urban sprawl with towns left holding the bag for infrastructure, public transportation, loss of open space, schools, traffic, and first responder needs which will ultimately lead to higher taxes and more people fleeing New Jersey.
In Scotch Plains, the Courts are forcing us to allow for the building of approximately 2,600 living units, of which only 454 will be deemed affordable using a 15% set-aside. That will lead to a 35% increase in the number of housing units, and assuming an occupation rate of 2.5 persons per unit, will lead to a 28% in our current population of 24,000 in a seven-year timeframe, with no funding from the state to offset increases in our school budget or municipal services. Insane!!
In fact, the Courts have so much power that they are forcing Scotch Plains to accept a project on North Avenue that our own Zoning Board, made up of taxpaying residents of our town, turned down years ago because the project was too dense and would create traffic problems and other issues.
Local officials and taxpayers should have control over the density and development of their neighborhoods, not unelected judges.
We need to get this process out of the courts and back to the State Legislature. We all support affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, seniors, millennials, veterans, those with special needs and many other groups, but our state legislators can approach this from a state and regional standpoint, not town by town. Right now, Governor Murphy and State Legislative Leaders don’t seem to care about the mess that is being created.
As we have gone thru the affordable housing process in Scotch Plains, I have kept the process as transparent as possible, and as our residents realize what is going on, they become outraged.
As a result, we formed a bipartisan citizen-led Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which has endorsed four pieces of legislation to start the reform process. We’ve posted the press release on these bills HERE.
I’m asking everyone to contact Governor Murphy, State Legislators, and candidates running for State Assembly this year to support these bills. The only way to get action is for taxpayers to unite and get active.
And of course, overdevelopment and high-density housing is just exacerbating the real problem in New Jersey -- high property taxes. If we cut property taxes across-the-board, we would make housing more affordable for everyone.
With all these high-density projects, some people will make a lot of money, i.e., developers, utility companies, banks, investors, etc. In my opinion, profit motives have compromised the original Mt. Laurel intent of providing affordable housing to now providing developers with enormous profit, while leaving taxpayers the consequences of overdevelopment.
I’m extremely frustrated with the lack of movement and action in Trenton on this issue. The Governor and State Legislative majority could hold a special session on affordable housing tomorrow and put a stop to overdevelopment, but refuse to do so.
I look forward to working with Bill Spadea, other Mayors, State Legislators, and of course residents all around New Jersey to finally get movement in Trenton on affordable housing reform. Remember, towns will have to go through this entire process again in 2025. Find your state legislators HERE. Tell them we need action now.
Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015. Tweet him @NJ1015 or @BillSpadea. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Bill Spadea.
More from New Jersey 101.5: