The council is considering a resolution amending an in line with the township’s COAH plans—but first they want to see what the residents think.
The council had previously approved its COAH plan, which includes an expectation for Our House to create three developmentally disabled housing units on Helfreds Landing, Foothill Road and Roanoke Road.
But contracts for the Foothill and Roanoke roads homes fell through, so a new agreement has been created for units on Pearl Street and Burning Bush Road instead.
“We originally had a resolution whereby we had allocated some builders’ trust fund money toward an agreement with Our House for the purchase of three homes to include in our COAH calculations,” said township administrator James Naples. “They identified three addresses. They purchased one and the other two they were not able to secure. So they have requested two other homes that they have contracts on.”
But the council opted to table the resolution until the Nov. 29 meeting after councilman Filipe Pedroso questioned whether the residents nearby had been notified.
“Last time, the residents reached out to me, and they were upset that they weren’t told in advance,” he said. “They were upset they weren’t told this was pending.”
Township attorney William Savo said there is no notice requirement for this kind of contract, and that the company could have purchased the homes individually and made them units for developmentally disabled housing on their own.
“We did this before to keep the COAH money from being snatched by the state,” he said.
In addition, Naples said, there is also a matching program Our House is participating in with the state, and so the approval is time sensitive.
Pedroso said he agrees with the purpose of this program, but wonders how these developments might impact the particular neighborhoods.
“We don’t have public input from the people who live next to these places,” he said.
Council president Allen Kurdyla said he understands the concerns, but that the council is abiding by state guidelines. And, he said, these developmentally disabled units are part of the COAH program that has already been submitted to the state.
“Our House has an agreement to purchase them, and the obligation by the state is not there to notify residents,” he said. “We have an obligation to move forward to support a program that we voted to support.”
Still, Pedroso said he believes it would be fair to the residents to inform them first.
“My only concern is that in fairness to the residents who live in those neighborhoods, they should be aware of this,” he said. “People should be given the opportunity to be involved in their government, people should be given the opportunity to come forward and give their concerns, and I view that as being an important part of the process.”
Councilman Matthew Moench proposed tabling the resolution for the time being, and republishing the agenda with an explanation of it so that residents can be informed of the nature of the impending resolution.
“I’m not sure I agree we need to contact residents, but I do see the point that without putting information on the agenda, no one could have a shot at noticing this resolution,” he said.
Instead, Moench suggested that they prepare to take action on the resolution at the Nov. 29 meeting.
Although she voted in favor of the motion to table, councilwoman Christine Henderson Rose said she is concerned about giving residents false hope that this resolution might be voted down. In retrospect, she said, the council probably will have to approve it because it is part of the already approved COAH plan.
“If we invite the public to come who have concerns and make them known, what are we going to do about those concerns?” she asked. “We will give people an opportunity to come and express themselves, but they will come with expectations that they will have influence over what we do, and I’m not so sure they will.”
Still, with only Kurdyla voting against, the council approved the motion to table the resolution until Nov. 29.