Jackson Zoning Board Vice Chairman Warns of Possible Affordable Housing Avalanche in Jackson Township

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JACKSON-The Jackson Township Council is once again amending township ordinances to accommodate more affordable housing construction within its borders, but one resident spoke up against the town’s current path.

Doctor Sheldon Hoffstein, the current Vide Chairman of the Jackson Township Zoning board, once a trusted advisor to township GOP officials questioned the numbers behind the township’s affordable housing strategy.

“In order to achieve the state-mandated 1,250 affordable housing units, the township would have to allow for the building of 5,500 to 6,200 units if you get the 20%,” Hoffstein said. “These units you are approving are a mix of single-family homes up to five bedrooms down to one bedroom.”

Hoffstein said if you calculate an average of three occupants per unit, the township will be adding over 16,000 more residents to the census.

“That’s a 30 percent increase in the population of our town,” Hoffstein told the board. “Was there a fiscal impact study done to determine the impact to the township? How many more police, how many DPW employees will we need?”

Township appointed affordable housing manager John Maczuga said he didn’t feel Hoffstein’s assessment of 5,500 units was accurate but said he didn’t actually know. He said there were slight adjustments for affordable housing credits.

“You’re not up there yet, but we’re getting there,” Hoffstein told Maczuga. “Right now you have 3,600 units.”

Maczuga confirmed that number based on the three already council-approved affordable housing communities in various stages of development across Jackson.

“There two more large number developments coming down the pike,” Hoffstein said. “You’re creating a big financial impact on the town…then you have schools, what is the financial impact on the schools? You talking about 5,500 more children going to school.”

Hoffstein said, according to current data, it costs $15,680 per child per year to educate a student in the Jackson School District. Hoffstein said of that figure, $9,134 is raised by local taxes.

“You’re talking about $33 million dollars that are going to be needed,” he said. “Does anybody on the council think that property taxes from all those new buildings are going to cover the cost of these kids?”

The township council did not respond. Township Attorney Kevin Starkey said the current ordinance does not change the numbers.

“I’m fully aware, I know what it says,” Hoffstein added. “I’m not saying I’m for or against it, I’m just bringing the numbers to your attention.”

“Maybe I’m not explaining it right, to get to 220 affordable housing units, you’re building 1,100 new units,” Hoffstein said.

“Absolutely,” Starkey replied.

Township Attorney Jean Cipriani tried to intervene, “I think the point they’re..”

Hoffstein interrupted, “I’m a point on anything, all I want you to realize is the cost to the town for all these new people coming in and why wasn’t there a fiscal study done to see how this will affect the taxes of the town?”

Township Council Scott Martin said there was no legal basis for the town to deny a high-density affordable housing development before the planning board, but Hoffestein was referring to the applications approved outside of the planning board, via council resolution over the past year and a half.

“I just want to know if you did a fiscal study to see what impact this will have to the town, I’m not saying I’m against affordable housing, I’m not saying that,” Hoffstein added. “I just want to know…how many more policemen, dpw and so on?”

“The answer is no,” Maczuga and Cipriani responded.

“Are you going to just put it out there and let the next generation worrying about paying for it after it’s all built?” Hoffstein asked.

Councilman Bressi said the results of the current round of high-density affordable housing units was based on a settlement agreement between the township and the state.

Bressi said the agreement and the current round of housing could be up to 5,500 new homes in Jackson, not taking into consideration the new projects Hoffstein mentioned that have not yet been submitted to the township for construction.

“Why didn’t you do a financial report?” Hoffstein asked again. “I just want an answer. If you felt we didn’t need it then we didn’t need it.”

Attorney Jean Cipriani said there was no impact study conducted and said the courts did not take the cost to taxpayers into consideration during the mediation process.

“So be it,” Hoffstein concluded. “Thank you.”

Resident Jim Bezanson told the township, “You don’t have to lay down to the developer and allow 70% lot coverage in this development.”

Bezanson questioned all of the zoning changes made by the council to allow for the new affordable housing projects. Cipriani said lot sizes were decreased for single-family homes.

Upon council vote, councilmen Robert Nixon and Barry Calogero voted no to the latest weakening of the township’s zoning ordinances.

“It’s a bad law, we can all wail against the law, lobby to have the law changed, but good luck with that,” said Councilman Scott Martin. “While we can all be upset about it, we can all be appalled by it…you elected us to make those choices…I have to go with the bad choice and say yes.”

Councilwoman Updegrave voted yes.

Councilman Nixon said, “I vote no on this, I’ve voted no in the past on ordinances like this…I was elected to vote my conscious, not to vote because the court told me to vote a certain way and not to benefit the New Jersey Builders Association.”

“Those people get to wander off after those decisions are made, they get to cash their checks, build their houses and we have to live with the consequences,” he added. “This is not something I think benefits the community. We do not have an affordable housing problem in this town.”

Councilman Ken Bressi succumbed to the threats made by the builders and cast the deciding vote to pass the latest ordinance to amend the zoning laws to accommodate affordable housing projects.