West Windsor’s redevelopment plans just got a little more complicated. The Township Council is reviewing a revised settlement agreement with InterCap Holdings that adds 20 more housing units to the Princeton Junction transit village, bringing the total number to 820. The revision also changes the ratio of affordable housing on site.
The new agreement — meant to satisfy the Fair Share Housing Center’s concerns that there was not enough affordable housing on the site — also sets aside 100 of the total 820 units for affordable housing — up from only 40, as originally proposed.
Of the 820 total units, 720 would be market rate units with an average of two bedrooms. The remaining 100 units would be affordable units — 50 percent of which would be moderate, 37 percent low, and 12 percent very low priced.
Under the previous agreement, approved in November, the township agreed to allow InterCap to build 800 housing units, 760 of which would be market-rate units with an average of two bedrooms per dwelling. The remaining 40 units would have been moderately priced affordable housing units.
The revised settlement offer comes just a few weeks after Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg ordered West Windsor, InterCap, and the Fair Share Housing Center to continue negotiations after an agreement could not be reached at the last court hearing on the matter on June 3.
Since the InterCap litigation was filed in May, 2009, as a Mount Laurel affordable housing lawsuit, Feinberg must conduct a fairness hearing to determine it satisfied Mount Laurel principles and the Fair Housing Act.
At the June 3 hearing, the Fair Share Housing Center — which has taken the position that having only 5 percent affordable housing on site is insufficient, and that the number should be 20 percent — said a new settlement offer had been on the table. Feinberg rescheduled the hearing for Thursday, July 7, to allow time for details of a settlement to be worked out. The hearing was sheduled after the News went to press. Details will be posted on the website, www.wwpinfo.com.
The revised settlement reflects the Fair Share Housing Center’s willingness to accept an increased ratio to 12.5 percent of affordable on housing on site in exchange for all 100 affordable units to be rentals, explained InterCap CEO Steven Goldin.
“Fair Share Housing was willing to accept a 12.5 percent affordable component (down from their original 20 percent) because they realized that 27 percent of mortgage applications are now being denied nationally, and it would be particularly difficult for their constituents to obtain mortgages, and rental units would be more accessible,” said Goldin.
Goldin said, however, that adding rentals — not a component of the original settlement — requires a separate building, and not one that is mixed in with market-rate units. “If you are going to do rentals, construction lenders will not fund a development project with rental units mixed in with for sale units,” said Goldin. “So that requires you to build the rental units as a stand-alone building.”
Goldin had no further comment about negotiations or details of the settlement.
A resolution to approve the new terms of the settlement was on the agenda for the June 27 meeting, but council pulled the item without discussion because Township Attorney Michael Herbert said there was an update that needed to be discussed in closed session.
Reached on June 28 by phone, Herbert said the council “discussed further proposals that InterCap made, which they believe will allow them to agree to the 100 affordable units among 820 units.”
“The council discussed it and came to certain positions, which I am not at liberty to reveal,” said Herbert.
“InterCap has to deal with the Fair Share Housing Center, which takes very strong positions concerning affordable housing,” said Herbert. “Since the lawsuit was filed as a Mount Laurel action, they are demanding more than the 5 percent affordable housing that was in the original deal.”
“Had they not intervened, I think it’s fair to say we would have had a settlement by now,” Herbert added.
But according to township officials, the new affordable housing ratio has caused InterCap to come back with some of its own revisions, which were vetted by the council in the closed session. Officials did not reveal what those revisions were.
The increase in affordable housing units from 40 to 100 “has required InterCap to come back with further proposals, which I can’t get into,” said Herbert.
The few residents who were at the June 27 council meeting and had a chance to review the proposed changes raised concerns about the increased affordable housing units, and the fact that there would be rental units.
“This is a huge change,” said resident John Church, pointing to the prior agreement that called for only moderate-income housing to satisfy fair housing regulations. “It’s going to pretty severely impact the tax receipts we will get” from the project, and officials should require a financial impact study before moving forward, he argued.
Resident Pete Weale called the matter the “taxes chainsaw massacre” and echoed Church’s calls for financial studies. “To proceed one step further without a financial feasibility study violates every precept” of sound business, he said.
Resident Bryan Maher criticized council’s earlier approval of a resolution calling on the state to restore $1 million in funding to a state-wide transit village initiative. Council justified approval of the resolution by saying that transit villages reduce carbon footprints and alleviate traffic by centering development around public transportation hubs.
Tying that matter into the InterCap settlement, Maher said the Princeton Junction train station “is already crowded.”
“Adding 820 housings units is certainly not going to alleviate traffic down there,” he said.
He also called on the council to present the numbers and figures behind the cost to InterCap for constructing amenities for West Windsor, like the promenade. He said those numbers should be compared with the money InterCap, and its CEO, Steve Goldin, is estimated to make from the project.
The settlement — reached last November — called for 800 housing units, retail, and infrastructure and amenity improvements on InterCap’s property, where the two-story office buildings at 14 Washington Road are now located on the southbound side of the tracks. The integrated development would not include any office space. Under the agreement, InterCap will be required to construct 70,000 square feet of retail space correlated with the phasing of residential units.