MANCHESTER – After a settlement was reached with a developer, 400 homes will be built in a development on Route 571. An official said this was mandated by the state to meet their affordable housing quota.
The property, over 93 acres, is located between the mobile home park and Cedar Glen West on Route 571.
The township and the developer, Manchester Development Group, reached a settlement agreement in the beginning of February, Councilman Sam Fusaro said. This agreement had to be voted on during a special meeting held February 7 so that it could be delivered to a state judge by February 11.
The issue began in 2004, when a retirement community was slotted for that property, Fusaro said. At the time, it would have been the site of 355 age-restricted homes. However, with the decline in the housing market, even the demand for senior housing reduced, partially because of how much is already in the area. So, the developer switched it to housing that would not have age restrictions.
A good number of them will be either townhouses or apartments. Statistically, these don’t produce as many school-age children as single family homes, but it might still be a burden on the school district, he said.
The settlement should allow Manchester to meet its quota for affordable housing in the township, Fusaro said.
After an issue in the town of Mount Laurel, that town was accused of zoning poor people out of the area. The courts responded by making sure that every town in New Jersey put aside a certain portion of its housing for people of low-to-moderate income.
The planning board usually has some control over what gets built in a town. However, the Mount Laurel decision changed some of that. Affordable housing advocates applauded the decision for preventing exclusionary zoning. Town officials hated it because it took away some control, and opened doors to development.
Many towns can meet their affordable housing obligations through senior communities. However, Manchester has so many that they’ve met their quota for how many affordable homes can come from senior housing, Fusaro said. The state only allows 25 percent of the total number of affordable homes to come from age-restricted housing.
“We could never meet our number without doing non-age restricted,” he said.
The number of units is set by the settlement, he said. There’s little the town can do about that number.
When Will They Be Built?
“There is absolutely no timeline,” he said. A lot of things would have to change before the construction would begin. First, the town would have to change the zoning of that parcel. Currently, it is zoned for age-restricted housing.
After that, the developer will have to go through the Pinelands Commission for approval of its plan. Then, they would need to bring it before the planning board. Water and sewer lines also have to be run to the property.
“It will be at least a couple of years before they put shovel to the ground,” he said.