Clinton Township COAH Plan: “Chicanery”

A recent Hunterdon Democrat article reports that the Clinton Township Community Coalition (CTCC) has filed a formal protest about the township’s most recent affordable housing plan with the New Jersey Council On Affordable Housing (COAH).

The Hunterdon Review covers the story in much more depth: Affordable housing plan opposed by Clinton Township citizen’s group.

The Clinton Township Community Coalition (CTCC) is challenging the affordable housing plan submitted to COAH by the township. CTCC said the plan “appears to be a politically motivated effort.”

The CTCC is the citizens’ group that fought the storied Windy Acres housing project until it was ultimately rejected by COAH, by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and by the Superior Court. Windy Acres crashed after the Clinton Township Planning Board, led by chairman James Imbriaco, approved a settlement deal with the developer, Pulte Homes — but minutes later the Clinton Township Council, rejected the deal, an action that exposed fatal flaws in the project that the CTCC had enumerated over the years.

The CTCC claims that the new members of the council, James Imbriaco, Spencer Peck and Peter Marra, intentionally misrepresented the Township’s existing COAH plan as more costly than the alternative the three cooked up. In its filing, the CTCC reveals that the “cost estimates” were fraudulent because they were based (a) on one-sided bids that excluded the alternative property, and (b) on estimates submitted by a bidder with whom the Township still has no contract. In other words, the estimates are smoke and mirrors, intended to misdirect COAH to approve an affordable housing plan that fails the main test COAH applies: Does the site present “a realistic opportunity to build affordable housing?”

The Review quotes from the CTCC filing:

The CTCC objection states, “When it put out a Request for Proposals for affordable housing developers in 2010, the township did not include the Old Allerton site. Yet the newly elected majority members of the council (Imbriaco, Marra, and Councilman Spencer Peck) disingenuously proclaimed that the Old Allerton site would be far more costly to develop than the Windy Acres site – without having new, competitive bids on Old Allerton to base these claims on. Perhaps more than anything else, this chicanery reveals the political agenda behind the trashing of the 2007 plan.”

The CTCC’s full COAH filing claims that the new COAH plan was the result of political promises made by Imbriaco and his running mates during their 2009 primary election campaign — promises to “put it all on Windy Acres,” in spite of the fact that the sites faces the same fatal problems that Pulte Homes faced with it:

Conifer [one of the two bidders for the project] has assured the township that funding will not be a problem, and that it will be able to accommodate the proposed development’s sewer and water needs, though Pulte Homes, the previous owner of Windy Acres, spent millions of dollars and was unable to do either. In theory, public sewer is not available. The state Department of Environmental Protection permitting is onerous and not guaranteed.   — Hunterdon Review

The CTCC filing provides a detailed history of the township’s COAH planning and illuminates the political agendas of the newest council members. The danger posed by the township’s COAH plan is that it tries to feed COAH the same sort of fraudulent planning that made COAH bare its sharp teeth to the township for many years prior to 2006.

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