Last Wednesday night the Clinton Township Council took action to subdivide the 292-acre Windy Acres property into open space and for affordable housing use.
25 acres will be set aside for future affordable housing, to be used as necessary under COAH’s 3rd-round growth share rules. Such units will be built only if the town grows. (Hence the term, growth share.)
12 acres will be set aside as developable land, to be used as the town sees fit in the future. Both these parcels are situated on Main Street off of Route 22.
These are the only lands suitable for development on the site. A Category 1 stream cuts off the rest of Windy Acres from access. The land slated for affordable housing is the same land Pulte originally proposed for that purpose. Pulte’s failure to obtain permits to build its proposed 1,160 units was largely due to the stream crossing problem which remains a problem today.
The balance of the land — 255 acres — will be open space. Once the subdivision is done, the Township will be able to apply for open space and Green Acres funds from the County and the State. By designating the most environmentally sensitive areas as open space, the Township can maximize the opportunity to obtain funds to offset the cost of acquiring the entire property. Clinton Township bought Windy Acres for $7 million on December 31, 2008 after friendly negotiations with Pulte Homes, which originally paid $13.7 million for the land. $4 million came from the Township’s existing open space fund. The balance will be paid to Pulte over two years without interest.
The Hunterdon County Parks System has had Windy Acres at the top of its “wish list” for over ten years. The plan has been to turn Windy Acres into a County Park.
Freeholder Erik Peterson encouraged the Council to acquire the property last year, making a personal commitment to support funding from the County. The question now is, how much will the County put in?
Clinton Township property taxpayers have already contributed approximately $6.8 million to the County Open Space fund, with very little of that money coming back to the Township over the years. It’s time for the County Freeholders to be a major partner in the acquisition of Windy Acres, not just a minor contributor.