Short two members, the Ridgewood Village Council emphatically voted down an that would have given the go-ahead to cram an undetermined number of affordable housing units along South Broad Street.
Mayor Keith Killion, to the state’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) mandates, which are currently locked in a legislative and judicial gridlock, told residents that there were two chief concerns with Village Planner Blais Brancheau’s ordinance, which would have created two affordable housing unit zones in the village along South Broad Street–south of Leroy Place (AH-2) would be residential only while the zone north of Leroy Place would be mixed-use commercial/residential (AH-3).
“The system leaves a lot to be desired,” the mayor said, adding that the council's obligations extended beyond a few property owners, but to stakeholders in Trenton, a precarious position given the state of flux.
Attorney Charles Collins, representing gastroenterologist Dr. Anna Korkis, approached the council during public comment stressing that his client–who wants to construct a 5,000 square foot office on the vacant property at 200 South Broad, currently zoned "B-2"–would be unfairly required to provide two-to-three affordable housing units should the ordinance have passed. Collins reported it would have cost the doctor over $750 to $1150 monthly, respectively.
“She considers it an abuse,” Collins said of the rejected ordinance proposed.
Korkis filed a site plan application in January was rejected at the 11th hour, Collins said, the same time Brancheau’s ordinance in the planning board was in the works. The locally-noted lawyer also said that given COAH’s undetermined state, the council should not rush into a decision.
Councilman Stephen Wellinghorst, who as an attorney is well versed in the headaches of COAH, which he called good in theory but poor in practice, remarked that he had problems with the AH-2 and AH-3 zones being the only village areas with affordable housing designations.
“I don’t get it,” he said, tacking onto a comment that resident Boyd Loving had made earlier. Loving said Brancheau’s rationale for the one designated area “wasn’t entirely clear” and opposed the measure, as did several other residents.
Deputy Mayor Tom Riche said the council needs to develop a plan that isn’t an “overreaction” and said time should be taken to thoroughly vet options as they develop.
The council is currently meeting its obligation of providing for 20 affordable housing units in the village, though previous plans called for over 800 units to be constructed, which officials said would require skyscrapers to be built in the village.
The unanimous voting was met with applauds by the audience. Eventually though, the council will eventually need to develop an affordable housing plan, or as Planner Brancheau said at the recent planning board meeting, it could be open to lawsuits from those who qualify for affordable housing but cannot find units.
Council members Paul Aronsohn and Bernadette Walsh were absent from the voting.