Today, February 8, 2024, the New Jersey Legislature is holding a hearing concerning Assembly, No. 4 and Senate, No. 50 which seeks to make significant changes to the regulations governing affordable housing. In this regard, several mayors are traveling to Trenton to testify before one of the legislative committees. Mayor Gallagher has prepared a statement on behalf of the Township Committee that will be entered into the record and reflects the Township Committee’s position on the matter.
Dear Members of the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly:
I address our New Jersey Legislators in my capacity as Mayor of Hanover Township, Morris County. I speak in response to the proposed A-4/S-50 legislation, which gives real estate developers an even more significant advantage to impose new burdens of high-density development on municipalities, local governments, and the taxpayers of New Jersey.
Hanover Township resolutely supports affordable housing. However, we cannot support an untenable process that is forced on our residents after concluding an affordable housing settlement in which we committed to build hundreds of residential units for properties that previously, in the entire history of our Township, had not filed a single application for residential development Throughout the third-round process we repeatedly heard from our residents, not about concerns over affordable housing itself, but about the off-site realities, like traffic, flooding, stormwater management, expansion of schools, police protection, and public safety demands. Nowhere in this process is that addressed. As a member of a governing body that participates at the State, county, and local level on a day-to-day basis, we hear the concerns of our residents. We hear the failures and the realities of high-density development in our community.
Now, after the conclusion of our third round, we are presented with legislation that, if approved, will create a legacy of sprawl throughout our already densely populated Township and State. A legacy based on a single trial court decision that did not reach the higher court and never addressed the very specific and unique issues for Morris County and the Township yet has been deemed the benchmark for every municipality to follow.
To avoid repeating my colleague's statements that the Township wholeheartedly supports, I turn to the New Jersey State Planning Commission, which is currently reviewing the State's Development and Redevelopment Plan.
This Plan is supposed to impact and guide communities with appropriate development designations. The Commission has been engaged with stakeholders and municipalities seeking comments and concerns regarding the updated Plan. The Commission has stated a desire for "the counties, municipalities, State agencies and the general public to all play an integral role in this process." This includes joint public informational meetings with each county planning board to begin the process of what is known as cross-acceptance with different levels of government. The Commission has been working with the county planner's associations as part of this process.
In contrast, let's look at the affordable housing process before us. We have the A- 4/S-50 legislation proceeding through the Senate and Assembly without updated information being considered, without an analysis of the third-round, high-density development impact on municipalities throughout the State, and without seeking out any information from our community or any communities with respect to this process.
We are being ignored and our voices are unheard. The studies and the impact analyses do not exist This is essentially a mandate. And it is not only an unfunded mandate, but a development mandate against all residents and citizens of the State.
As Mayor of Hanover Township, I speak on behalf of the Township Committee, in opposition to A-4/S-50, and respectfully request that you evaluate, solicit input and opinions, and provide all stakeholders with a voice at the table. That means seats not just for developers and Fair Share Housing Center, but for local officials, planners, engineers, residents, as well as environmental representatives.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments into the record.
Very truly yours,
for the Township Committee
Thomas "Ace" Gallagher, Mayor