A developer is looking to build a 400-plus-unit affordable housing development off Route 571 across from the Southfield Shopping Center.
The project, called Celebrations at West Windsor, is proposed for a 21.5-acre tract bounded by McGetrick Lane, Southfield Road and Westbrooke Boulevard.
But, according to sources contacted by The News, the proposal is likely dead on arrival—the project has no place in West Windsor’s current master plan or its court-approved affordable housing plan.
The parcel’s owner and developer—Jack Morris of Piscataway-based WWM Properties West LLC—has submitted an application to the West Windsor Zoning Board for a use variance along with a concept plan for development.
Morris is also the owner of Edgewood Properties, the developer of numerous properties throughout central New Jersey. Edgewood and WWM are listed as being located at the same address.
The application was originally slated for the May 23 zoning board meeting, but it was rescheduled at the request of the developer. The application is now set for Thursday, July 25.
The property is currently zoned P-1—planned small-scale village center. The applicant is requesting that the board rezone the property to allow for residential uses.
Representatives from WWM declined to comment on the on the proposal.
The appliaction calls for 14 buildings containing a total of 84 one-bedroom, 168 two-bedroom and 168 three-bedroom apartments.
The apartments would be rentals, and only for individuals or families that meet very low, low or moderate-income qualififctions.
Very low income for one person in Mercer County is defined as between $20,834 and $34,723 per year, low income as between $34,723 and $55,557 per year, moderate income as between $55,557 and $69,447 per year.
These designations are county specific and change regularly, based on census information and median average incomes.
However, this application and development style goes against general West Windsor housing policy.
“We generally don’t do 100 percent affordable housing,” said Mayor Hemant Marathe. “West Windsor has a philosophy of developing inclusive affordable housing.”
The property was originally part of the Heatherfield development of 99 residential homes along Southfield Road.
The developer, Garden State Land, had left the area open for its future corporate offices, but the property was auctioned off after Garden State Land went bankrupt.
Sam Surtees, West Windsor land use manager, said that the applicant has appeared numerous times before the zoning board with requests for a number of different uses—all of which have been rejected since they did not meet the requirements of the parcel’s zoning.
The latest meeting was postponed because on of the applicant’s technical professionals was not available.
The applicant its professionals are expected to present a case for the use variance at the July 25 meeting.
Use variances are among the most complex and difficult to get approved. Under the state’s Municipal Land Use Law, as the developer must prove that the project would provide a benefit to the community as opposed to its current zoning.
To be approved, the zoning board application must have a supermajority, with at least five yes votes from the seven board members. If the board votes against the variance, the applicant has the option of filing litigation against teh township to challenge teh decision.
Apart from a yes or no vote, the board may also come to the conclusion that they do not have the legal jurisdiction to make a decision on this development, since the zoning board has historically dealt with smaller use variances instead of large-scale rezoning.
Sources have indicated to The News that there is a good chance the application will be deemed out of the zoning board’s jurisdiction.
Sources have also told The News that there is no desire to zone for more housing in West Windsor.
State Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson in May approved the township’s plan to meet is requirement to provide for 500 units of affordable housing. The township recently went through a roind of master plan and zoning changes to make them consistent with the affordable housing plan.
There are a number of developments included in the affordable housing plan, but the Celebrations application is not one of them.
Any lawsuit filed on the grounds that the development provides affordable housing woudl likely lose, sinc eJudge Jacobson’s ruling protects the township from affordable housing litigation through teh year 2025.
A report by the West Windsor Affordable Housing Committee notes that the proposal is inconsistent with the township’s master plan.
“We’ve already rezoned properties and are reviewing site applications from those developers, in order to build the affordable housing units (approved by Judge Jaconson),” said Surtees.
Meanwhile, other staff reports indicate additional concerns with the plan, including the density of development, the amount of impervious area, and a lack of environmental information.
According to the Affordable Housing Committee, the density of development does not meet the requirements for the current zoning, the buildings are much higher than allowed, and the floor area ratio is similarly high, indicating a property that could become overdeveloped.
The application did not include a traffic study, so the impact of this development on traffic in the nearby area has not been analyzed. The application also does not include any plans for stormwater management, which are necessary in a property of this size.
If approved by the zoning board, the applicant will then have to engineer a site plan application and present again to the Zoning Board, which may take anywhere from six to nine months according to Surtees.
“Assuming it gets approved, I would assume they would come to the zoning board early next year for site plan review. Then they may be able to break ground in spring of 2021, and the the first residents can move in during the summer of 2022,” Surtees said.