Development may move forward without age restriction

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Attorney Stephen Nehmad speaks before the Planning Board’s Master Plan Committee. (Steve Prisament) Attorney Stephen Nehmad speaks before the Planning Board’s Master Plan Committee. (Steve Prisament)

GALLOWAY – The township appears to have no choice but to eliminate the age restriction for a 944-home project that has been stalled for years.

Land-use attorney Stephen Nehmad and other experts have made presentations at the Planning Board’s Master Plan Committee and the Board of Education.

The school board has a special interest – figuring out how those new homes would affect its student population.

But despite concerns and whether development occurs at Blue Heron Pines East, it looks like the age restriction will soon be a thing of the past.

The township can do either of two things, according to Nehmad.

It can lift the age restriction and work with Ole Hansen & Sons or their successors to craft a development best suited to the municipality; or it can refuse and see Ole Hansen have the age restriction lifted by court order under the Sarlo Law – named for the state legislator, Paul Sarlo, who introduced the law to aid developers facing ruin over the supposed death of the 55-and-older housing market.

“They’re going through with the project and either option is not good for us,” school board President Ernest Huggard said after Ole Hansen’s presentation at a Monday, Feb. 11 meeting at Galloway Township Middle School.

While it seems certain the Sarlo Law would allow for converting the project to one for all ages, Ole Hansen has not applied for a conversion. It has until July 31 to do so.

The developer has said it would prefer a change in the Municipal Land Use Ordinance that would allow the project to move forward with the township having some control.

Ole Hansen and Sons project 248 students would be added to the k-8 school district which now has 1,170 fewer students than it did in 2007.

But in 2007 the district had three additional schools. All three buildings have since been closed, and two of them were razed.

“We don’t have the seats,” Huggard said. “We can’t absorb two more students per grade. It goes against our philosophy.”

The next move for how the project zoning proceeds is up to the Planning Board, which will consider the Master Plan Committee’s recommendation – almost assuredly to change the definition of the Industrial I Zone, which allows for industrial and age-restricted residential.

If the Planning Board OKs removing ‘age-restricted’ from the description, it would then go to the Township Council, which would have to modify the Municipal Land Use Ordinance accordingly.

According to Nehmad, the project probably wouldn’t be complete for 15-25 years, with students being phased in over that amount of time.

Ole Hansen’s representatives met with the Master Plan Committee Thursday, Feb. 7.

Figures were presented showing the declining school population from a number of angles.

Following presentations by Nehmad and consultants Richard Reading and Dan Galetto, Township Planner Tiffany Cuviello said the municipality really doesn’t have a choice.

“With Sarlo, what you see is what you get,” she told the group. “If we cooperate with them, at least we’ll have some level of control over whatever project finally gets approved.”

She recommended changing the Master Plan definition in the Industrial I Zone, which would hopefully lead to follow-up action by the Planning Board and Township Council to allow Ole Hansen to return at some time to the Planning Board with a new proposal, which could be tweaked by the board.

“If we do the change, we can create specific guidelines,” Cuviello said. “We can say there have to be so many age-restricted homes and so many homes have to be a certain size. Anyone would pursue Sarlo because there’s no market for age-restricted homes. Changing the zoning guidelines gives us the opportunity to create better guidelines.”

She said that when the project began more than two decades ago, age-restricted housing was a good solution for the township to meet Pinelands requirements, but not anymore.

Mayor Don Purdy, who is on the Planning Board and the Master Plan Committee, said the Sarlo Bill “ties the township’s hands.”

“The (Planning) Board can make recommendations and make sure restrictions are attached to it,” Purdy said.

“I wouldn’t normally be in favor of passing something like this, but given the option, I think it’s the best thing for the township,” said Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola, also on the board and the committee. “It comes down to, do you want to have some control or no control, because it is coming.”

Richard Reading tells planners that things don’t always work out as expected. (Steve Prisament) Richard Reading tells planners that things don’t always work out as expected. (Steve Prisament)

Dan Galetto reads from documents supporting a new Blue Heron East plan. (Steve Prisament) Dan Galetto reads from documents supporting a new Blue Heron East plan. (Steve Prisament)

Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola ponders the reams of information passed before Galloway’s Master Plan Committee. (Steve Prisament) Deputy Mayor Tony Coppola ponders the reams of information passed before Galloway’s Master Plan Committee. (Steve Prisament)


blog comments powered by Disqus