Borough Council Approves Fair Share Plan for 2008 COAH Filling

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HOUSE2.jpgThe Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) is a state agency which establishes and monitors municipal affordable housing obligations in New Jersey. It determines how many low and moderate income housing units Metuchen will be required to build into its present and future real estate development projects.

 

The Borough Council has recently approved a plan that will help ensure Metuchen meets the state requirements.  Planning consultant and former COAH employee, Shirley Bishop, created Metuchen's plan.

 

WHAT COAH DOES

COAH defines housing regions, estimates low and moderate income housing needs, sets guidelines for municipalities to address their fair share numbers, and reviews and approves housing elements/fair share plans and regional contribution agreements (RCAs) for all municipalities. COAH has quasi-judicial status; it can impose resource restraints and consider motions regarding housing plans.

 

 THE HISTORY OF COAH

Since its creation in the 1985 Fair Housing Act, COAH has been charged with determining the scope of each municipality's constitutional obligation to provide for affordable housing. The ruling case that led to the creation of the program is referred to as "the Mount Laurel action" in which the Supreme Court in Southern Burlington County determined that obligation consists of providing a "realistic opportunity" for the development of affordable housing.

 

The COAH process results in a determination of each municipality's "fair share" -- just how many affordable units they must provide. Over the last ten years, two phases of this ongoing procedure have been made law and then amended--at present, New Jersey is operating under Phase III requirements.

 

RAMIFICATIONS OF COAH

If a town does not comply and provide for the proper number of affordable housing units, a developer could sue for non-compliance, take over an open lot, and build whatever they want with no regard for borough plans.  Therefore, it is incredibly important that the town come up with a plan that meets state standards.

 

In Metuchen, developers pay fees which are held in escrow and, if necessary, used by the town to purchase properties for affordable housing units.

 

METUCHEN AND COAH REQUIREMENTS

"Metuchen is proactive, staying well ahead of the game," states Councilman Richard Weber. "By building a plan and looking critically at the small amount of space left to develop within town parameters, Metuchen will be able to make what everyone expects will be a successful bid for COAH certification."  Various housing areas around town are taken into consideration and units in the Metuchen Senior Citizens Housing (otherwise known as Lincoln Avenue Seniors), Franklin Square condos and Berringer House (Grove Avenue and Stoneham Place)  are several of the existing developments that have low to moderate income housing units for rental at this time.  At present only 19% of existing real estate are rental properties.

 

The Renaissance project provides an excellent example of mixed-use and COAH considerations; it will allow for both rental and commercial units. Because Metuchen has little open space, it is imperative that developers plan units that help the borough meet state standards. "Mixed-use," says Councilman Weber "is necessary in such a small town."

 

Should radical action be required to meet our requirements, Shirley Bishop has recommended a group home in an existing property, owned and maintained by the town. 

 

CONTINUING ACTION

Metuchen's requirements have been found "too burdensome" by the League of Municipalities, an organization that acts as a watchdog for municipalities involved in state certification action. In an ongoing legal procedure, the League of Municipalities is attempting to lower the required housing unit numbers for a small borough like Metuchen. Metuchen Matters will follow these legal proceedings and report back on this litigation.

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If you would like to read more about COAH, including COAH decisions from 1986 to present you can do so at the New Jersey Digital Legal Library
Here's the web site
Http://njlegallib.rutgers.edu/coah/

40 to zip?

Wonder what the COAH record is against consultants? Anyone want to bet that in the end the record goes to 41 to zip?

Mayor Vahalla explained that when a town looks to appeal a COAH determination, the outcome is generally not favorable. He said that at one point, COAH was a 40-0 victor, which is why the Borough hired a consultant to assist with completing the filing.

Their initial recommendations for Metuchen far exceeded the percentage that would be expected for low to moderate housing units.

They said at a previous meeting that when COAH looked at satellite images of towns, they counted parks, large yards and pretty much any open green space as "vacant land." Not too bright.

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  • A. Sardone: If you would like to read more about COAH, including read more
  • Anonymous: 40 to zip? Wonder what the COAH record is against read more
  • Teri Coleman: Mayor Vahalla explained that when a town looks to appeal read more
  • Anonymous: Their initial recommendations for Metuchen far exceeded the percentage that read more
  • Anonymous: They said at a previous meeting that when COAH looked read more

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