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Affordable Housing

  • As part of Bedminster’s state-mandated Round III affordable housing obligations, the township was required to provide an additional 28 affordable family rental units to its affordable housing inventory.  This requirement was in addition to our existing inventory, which numbers approximately 698 units, which were credited previously.  Once a unit has been credited as an affordable unit, it remains as a credited unit, even after the unit’s affordability restrictions have expired.  Bedminster’s Round III obligations are entirely new and are independent of any existing credits or current inventory.

  • We are not alone.  Every municipality in NJ is obligated to provide additional affordable housing as part of the state mandate.  Several neighboring towns have obligations that run in the 100’s of units.   But for these obligations, our township would not be considering any new development.

  • In order to provide the number of units required, the township either has to acquire suitable land and build and operate the affordable units at the taxpayer’s expense, or work with a third party developer to meet the obligation.  The former approach is prohibitively expensive and would result in a dramatic and sustained tax increase for all residents.  The alternative removes the burden from the taxpayer, but in order to make an affordable housing project financially viable, a developer will complement affordable housing units with market rate units, typically offsetting every affordable unit with five market rate units.

  • In order to comply with the mandate, Bedminster was required to zone for the additional affordable units no later than June of 2021.  Failure to do so would have resulted in a default in our obligations, allowing a developer, through a builder’s remedy lawsuit, to unilaterally dictate the terms of any project fulfilling those obligations.  Coincidentally, this is how The Hills housing development came to be as a result of a prior lawsuit and court ruling.   

  • As opposed to designating new land for development, the Bedminster Master Plan focuses on in-fill zoning, wherein currently developed land is redesignated for use.  This approach prevents urban spawl and from new development infringing upon our farmland and other undisturbed areas.

  • In order to fulfill our obligations, two separate properties are involved.  The first project was approved in late 2020 by the Bedminster Zoning Board after a series of public meetings.  It involves the construction of 33 rental units and light retail on a 5 acre property in Bedminster Village, diagonally across from Bedminster Pizza.  Five affordable family rental units will be included in this development, in addition to 28 market rate units.

  • To address Bedminster’s remaining obligations, KRE Holdings, owners of the Bedminster One office campus in Pluckemin, approached the municipality with an offer to build the units on that same property.   The Bedminster Planning Board, after months of consideration and public hearings, determined that the KRE site was the most suitable location, and recommended to the Township Committee that the site be rezoned from Office Research-Village (OR-V) to Office Research-Village-Mixed Use (OR-V-MU), which allows for office, residential and retail uses.  The rezoning was approved in June of 2021, allowing the municipality to fulfill its agreement with Fair Share Housing and avoid a builder’s remedy lawsuit.

  • The Bedminster Planning Board approved a site plan application in December of 2021 that allows KRE to build up to 160 rental units on the designated site, including not less than 24 affordable family rental units.  This will allow Bedminster to fulfill its remaining affordable housing obligation on a site previously occupied by a parking lot and drive-through bank.

  • The Planning Board’s focus, in addition to fulfilling Bedminster’s affordable housing obligations, was to have the site redeveloped with appropriate and attractive architecture, active and open spaces for public congregation and amenities, and minimal impact to traffic.  As part of the obligations imposed on the developer, they are required to fund in whole the improvements to the Burnt Mills – Washington Valley – Routes 202/206 intersection that were identified in a 2018 traffic study, well prior to the current application.  These improvements include the installation of new signal heads and traffic sensing equipment, realignment of the intersection geometry and a redesign of the queuing lanes to alleviate traffic back-ups.   Bedminster’s traffic engineering consultant believes this will improve intersection efficiency by over 50%.  While these improvements had been previously recommended and approved by the County and State DOT, the funds provided by the developer will enable the plans to now be executed at no taxpayer expense.

  • During the public hearings, objections were raised regarding the impact to our public services (police, fire and first aid), sewerage and school.  In consultation with our first responders, they do not believe the addition of these two developments will have a detrimental impact on response time or call volume.  Our sewer system is currently running under 70% capacity, and the addition of 193 residential units will not negatively impact a system which currently serves over 3,300 units in the Hills alone.  Bedminster Township School is currently under enrolled, and we believe can easily accommodate the additional demand that will be introduced by these developments, especially given the wide mix of renters likely to occupy these units (single, married with no children, married with children and retirees with no children).

  • In addition, some residents have expressed concerns over pending applications or planned developments in neighboring municipalities.  In the case of pending applications, recognize that any Bedminster landowner has the right to bring an application in front of the Land Use Board, but a submitted application is not an approved application until it is subjected to scrutiny by our board, our professionals (planner, engineer and legal counsel) and the public.  In addition, Bedminster has no legal standing with respect to proposed or approved applications in any other municipality, much as we wouldn’t want our neighboring towns dictating policy or imposing their will on our planning and land use decisions.

  • Want more?  Read how various municipalities across Somerset Hills have responded to the affordable housing mandate.  The Editor of the Bernardsville News shares his opinion here.

Paid for By Colin Hickey 2023,
Jim Christie, Treasurer
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