Affordable Housing Proposal

Committeeman Jeff DeVico and Committeeman Tim Donohue look over a proposal for an affordable housing development in Rio Grande, presented Monday, Nov. 21 by Jonathan Lubonski, vice president for the Michaels Development Company. Also pictured are township attorney Frank Corrado, township engineer Marc Deblasio, and former township business administrator Connie Mahon.

David Benson

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – A developer presented an affordable housing proposal to committee members last week that would add 76 units on Rio Grande property near an existing Conifer development.

“When I saw Block 1523, I thought it was really well suited for this type of development,” said Jonathan Lubonski, vice president for the Michaels Development Company in Marlton. The property, about 24 acres, has about six acres that with a CAFRA review, could be developed, he said.

CAFRA is the state law that mandates a review prior to any development of coastal land.

“This is a preliminary meeting,” Lubonski said during the Nov. 21 work session of the committee. “There’s nothing that I’m presenting that’s set in stone.”

The property is near the newly built Meadow Lark Run apartments, a Conifer Realty project.

In New Jersey, municipalities are legally obliged to provide affordable housing options, based on court precedent and the Fair Housing Act of 1985. But the process by which towns are to provide that housing, and how much housing is required, has been the subject of numerous administrative changes, legal challenges and shifting regulations over the years.

The latest round of rules potentially included an increase in the number of units required from Middle Township, but COAH is still in flux, Lubonski said. No new requirements have yet come down from the state.

Lubonski described his proposal for the property on Rio Grande Avenue as looking ahead to potential requirements.

The six-acre plot could support a 25,000 to 35,000-square-foot building, he said, large enough for 76 units, a number of apartments that would allow for an on-site, live-in property manager.

The development would be deed restricted for 30 years, Lubonski said. “There’s no intention for a short-term hold for this type of development,” he said.

While the Michaels Company hasn’t developed any affordable housing in Cape May County, Lubonski invited Township Committee members to tour a development under construction in Egg Harbor Township similar to the one he proposed in Middle Township.

Committeemen Jeff DeVico and Tim Donohue took no action on the proposal, but agreed to look at Lubonski’s plan. Mayor Mike Clark was vacationing, and did not attend the meeting.

“My initial concern is that design looks a lot like Conifer’s,” Donohue said.

Lubonski, who said he previously worked with Conifer Realty, another affordable housing developer, said there are a variety of designs available, should the committee decide to purse the development.

“We have not formally engaged an engineer at this time,” Lubonski said. A real estate agent has advertised the property as having the potential for an affordable housing development, he said, which could meet housing requirements of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing, or COAH.

“While the state of COAH is in flux, I think this site lends itself well to COAH credit,” Lubonski said.

Middle Township Gazette reporter. Call me anytime you have news for the paper or the website. 609-365-6176