In 1975 the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in South Burlington County NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel, which decision has shaped the issue of affordable housing in New Jersey ever since.
That decision, and a subsequent decision in 1983, determined that every municipality in New Jersey has an affirmative obligation to provide for affordable housing within its boundaries. It also led to the adoption of the State’s Fair Housing Act in 1985 and the creation of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), which became the state agency responsible for overseeing the manner in which municipalities address their low and moderate income housing obligations.
COAH initially adopted affordable housing regulations and housing-need numbers for municipalities for the years 1987 through 1999, but following 1999, they utilized a different approach to determining affordable housing need which resulted in legal challenges, with the Courts continually invalidating their various approaches ever since. Finally, in 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that COAH had become “dysfunctional” and had the Courts take over the process.
Since then, two groups – one representing a consortium of municipalities and one representing the Fair Share Housing Center, a housing advocacy group – have prepared affordable housing-need numbers for all municipalities in the State. The two groups’ numbers for the Town of Boonton are wildly divergent. For example, for the period encompassing years 1999 through 2025, the
consortium’s experts have determined that Boonton has an affordable housing obligation of five units, whereas Fair Share Housing Center’s experts have determined that Boonton has an affordable housing obligation of 402 units for the same period. The numbers set forth by these two groups have been the subject of court cases throughout the State over the past two years, and no final decisions on these numbers have yet to be made. However, irrespective of these numbers, the Courts do allow municipalities that are fully developed, such as Boonton, to seek an adjustment from these preliminary determinations based on the fact of their lack of vacant, developable land.
The Town of Boonton has engaged Burgis Associates, Inc. (www.burgis.com) to prepare an Affordable Housing Plan that identifies the Town’s realistic development potential based on the Town’s lack of developable property, and how it may address an ‘adjusted determination’ of affordable housing-need. Burgis Associates, Inc. is an award winning community planning firm with a wealth of experience in the area of affordable housing. The firm and its planners have been actively involved in this issue since the New Jersey Supreme Court rendered its initial Mount Laurel decisions and has, to date, prepared plans for more than seventy-five communities. Additionally, the firm’s president and principal planner, Joseph Burgis, a recognized state expert, has been appointed Court Master in numerous cases regarding affordable housing, where he is charged with assisting courts in evaluating the viability of municipal housing plans.
We are happy to report that the Town has entered into a Judge approved settlement agreement with Fair Share Housing Center (www.fairsharehousing.org) to define our obligations with respect to affordable housing and the mechanisms by which the Town will meet those obligations.
As was reported in a past newsletter, Fair Share Housing Center is legally challenging every municipality throughout the State to increase the availability of affordable housing. While we recognize the need, affordable housing obligations cannot come at an enormous financial cost or at the expense of our community identity, unreasonable population growth, and other important factors. Thank you to our Town attorney Dorsey & Semrau - Fred Semrau, Town planner H2M – Jeff Janota, and affordable housing planning firm, Burgis & Associates - Joe Burgis for your expertise. Thank you for representing Boonton’s tax payers to protect them from future litigation (through 2025), avoiding an unreasonable housing obligation that would change small-town Boonton, and for helping us do our part to create affordable housing opportunities for those in need. On May 4th, 2017, the settlement agreement and affordable housing plan were approved by Judge Nergaard, the Morris County judge hearing Boonton's case.
TOWN OF BOONTON
NOTICE OF FAIRNESS AND PRELIMINARY COMPLIANCE HEARING FOR THE TOWN OF BOONTON, COUNTY OF MORRIS, REGARDING A SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT RELATED TO THE TOWN’S OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE AFFORDABLE HOUSING TO LOW- AND MODERATE-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS
DOCKET NO.: MRS-L-1636-15
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that on May 4, 2018, beginning at 10 a.m., there will be a Fairness and Preliminary Compliance Hearing (“Hearing”) before the Honorable Maryann L. Nergaard, J.S.C. at the Morris County Courthouse, Washington & Court Streets, 5th Floor, Courtroom #17, Morristown, New Jersey 07963.
The purpose of the Hearing is for the Court to consider whether the terms of a settlement agreement (“Settlement Agreement”) between the Town of Boonton (“Town”) and Fair Share Housing Center (“FSHC”) will meet the Town’s obligation to provide a realistic opportunity to satisfy the Town’s rehabilitation, Prior Round, and Third Round “fair share” of the regional need for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households pursuant the Mount Laurel decisions and their progeny, the Fair Housing Act, N.J.S.A. 52:27D-301, et seq., the substantive, applicable regulations of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (“COAH”), the New Jersey Supreme Court’s March 10, 2015 decision in In re N.J.A.C. 5:96 & N.J.A.C. 5:97, 221 N.J. 1 (2015), and other applicable laws.
The Settlement Agreement fully addresses the existing components of the Town’s affordable housing obligations for the period 1987-2025, including the Town’s Present Need Obligation (or rehabilitation obligation) of 25 units, its Prior Round obligation of 11 housing units, and its Third Round new construction obligation of 261 units. The proposed Settlement Agreement provides a detailed list of the Town’s total affordable housing obligation and compliance mechanisms demonstrating the Town’s compliance with those affordable housing obligations. The full text of the Settlement Agreement is available for public inspection and/or photocopying (at requestor’s expense) during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Town Clerk’s Office located at Town Hall, 100 Washington Street, Boonton, NJ 07005 and is posted on the Town’s website at www.boonton.org.
On the date of the Hearing, the Court will conduct a Fairness Hearing to determine whether the Settlement Agreement is fair to low- and moderate-income households and creates a realistic opportunity for satisfaction of the Town’s affordable housing obligations. The Town will seek a Judgment of Compliance and Repose formally approving the Settlement Agreement, subject to appropriate conditions, if any, that may be imposed by the Court, which Judgment of Compliance and Repose will entitle the Town to protection from any Mount Laurel builder’s remedy lawsuits for a period to be determined by the Court.
Any interested person may seek to appear and be heard at the May 4, 2018 Hearing on the Settlement Agreement and shall have the opportunity to present any position on the Settlement Agreement. Objections or comments by any interested person must be filed with the Honorable Maryann L. Nergaard, J.S.C., Morris County Courthouse, Washington & Court Streets, 5th Floor, Morristown, New Jersey 07963 on or before April 20, 2018, with duplicate copies forwarded by mail and email to the attention of the following:
Susan C. Sharpe, Esq.
Dorsey & Semrau, LLC
714 Main Street
P.O. Box 228
Boonton, NJ 07005
Joshua D. Bauers, Esq.
Fair Share Housing Center
510 Park Boulevard
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
Joseph H. Burgis, PP, AICP
Burgis Associates, Inc.
25 Westwood Avenue
Westwood, NJ 07675
This Notice is provided pursuant to directive of the Court and is intended to inform interested parties of the proposed Settlement Agreement and inform such parties that they are able to comment on the Settlement Agreement before the Court reviews and evaluates whether to approve the Settlement Agreement. This Notice does not indicate any view by the Court as to the fairness, reasonableness, or adequacy of the Settlement Agreement or whether the Court will approve the Settlement Agreement.
Cindy Oravits, Town Clerk
Town of Boonton