Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Housing Plan Ok'd over Vocal Protest

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Housing Plan Ok'd over Vocal Protest

Article excerpt

Over the objections of residents who railed for more than three hours Tuesday night against a developer's proposal to build on the D'Angelo Farms and existing Borough Hall properties, the Dumont Council, in a 5-1 vote, approved a settlement agreement that paves the way for 142 new apartment units and end a years-long "builder's remedy" lawsuit against the borough.

Some of the roughly 200 people gathered in the Dumont High School gymnasium yelled "Shame on you!" after the council members cast their votes. Only Council President Barbara Correa was in opposition.

"The development is not what any of us want," Mayor Jim Kelly said before the vote. "But the best thing for the town right now is to take something we have control over, which is the settlement."

Developer Landmark Dumont LLC sued the borough two years ago to force the re-zoning of D'Angelo Farms for "inclusionary" development. Landmark has a contract to purchase the 7-acre property, which became available in 2013 when the D'Angelo Farms nursery closed after 91 years in business.

Dumont is just one of several North Jersey towns that have faced lawsuits in recent years from developers seeking to build affordable housing. So-called builder's remedy lawsuits accuse municipalities of violating the state's affordable-housing mandate and seek to force towns to rezone to accommodate a developer's plans to build affordable units.

According to the agreement, the developer will have permission to build 108 rental apartments on the larger, 6-acre portion of the farm and 16 apartments on the smaller tract.

Those 124 units would be in five two-story structures with a maximum height of 35 feet.

In addition, it will construct a four-story structure on the Borough Hall property with 18 affordable-housing units in three stories above a ground floor with 12,000 square feet of office space for municipal use. All the parking on-site will be for use by apartment residents; the borough will have to secure parking for its employees and visitors off-site, according to the agreement.

The borough will agree, by Aug. 1, either to declare the two sites as areas in need of redevelopment and designate Landmark as the redeveloper or to rezone the sites to permit the development.

"The redevelopment plan and ordinance shall provide for the relaxation and modifications of all current zoning, bulk and design requirements of the borough" that may apply to the sites, the agreement reads.

If the borough doesn't meet the Aug. 1 deadline -- or if the Board of Education continues to lay claim to the property at that time -- then Landmark can relocate the 18 units of affordable housing to the smaller portion of D'Angelo Farms and build 124 market-rate rental units on the main tract.

Similarly, if the developer deems the cost of repairing or upgrading the sewer system to accommodate the new development too expensive, it can negotiate a "mutually acceptable resolution" with the borough or terminate the agreement altogether. …

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