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AHH 24-Hr. News

Road Construction on West Front Street in Middletown Until Aug. 8
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Wall, NJ – New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) today announced that it is installing 1,500 feet of main on West Front Street in Middletown, between... Read More...
Matawan Contractor Admits Failing to Perform Work for Post-Sandy Victims
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Admits He Took Deposits for Work He Never Did FREEHOLD, NJ - A Matawan-based contractor pleaded guilty to accusations of theft admitting he accepted... Read More...
IMAGE Telling Their Story Through the Power of Art
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
PHOTO: Amanda's Easel Program Coordinator Cindi Westendorf (second from left) and Canterbury Art Show volunteers in the 2013 art show gallery of... Read More...
IMAGE The Community YMCA Kicks Off ‘Togetherhood’ Initiative with School Supply Drive to Benefit Kids Near and Far
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
PHOTO: Sahar Akbarzai of Old Bridge helps Y campers create a mural that will travel to Afghanistan along with school supplies being collected at... Read More...
IMAGE Assistance Available for Organic Certification Costs
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
TRENTON, NJ  – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture announced a partnership with the federal government to reduce organic certification... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Not the Kind of Anchovy You Put on Pizza
by Joe Reynolds
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
If someone were to ask you the question what’s the most abundant and frequently found fish in Lower New York Bay, including Raritan Bay and Sandy... Read More...
IMAGE Review - Lucy
by David Prown
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
I saw the new movie, "Lucy" the other day starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman and this movie is going to do well in the box office. Not... Read More...
IMAGE Adoption Involving Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
by Daniel J. Vance
Saturday, 26 July 2014
Laura Bloch adored his picture. “My husband and I had just been approved through an adoption agency and the agency sent out a letter with a picture... Read More...
IMAGE Is It The Shadow?
by Woody Zimmerman
Friday, 25 July 2014
“Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of man? (Hoo-hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) The Shadow...” Starting in the 1930s, and extending well into... Read More...
IMAGE Spectator’s Observations
by George Hancock-Stefan
Thursday, 24 July 2014
During the World Cup, I watched as many games as possible. I watched them here at home, I watched a couple of games in Turkey where they were... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Wed Jul 30 @ 3:00PM - 04:30PM
Free Summer Mini-Camp
Mon Aug 04 @ 8:00PM -
Middletown Township Committee Workshop Meeting
Tue Aug 05 @ 3:00PM - 04:30PM
Free Summer Mini-Camp
Wed Aug 06 @ 3:00PM - 04:30PM
Free Summer Mini-Camp
Thu Aug 07 @ 7:00PM - 09:00PM
Prostate Cancer Network- US TOO meets

Whenever a major development application is submitted to the Township’s Planning or Zoning Board, the question that is invariably asked of the Township Committee is: “why can’t you just tell them no?”  Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as the question may imply.

There are strict laws governing land use in New Jersey that are rooted in our very Constitutional rights.  The boards are independent bodies.  Their review process is dictated by State laws that provide criteria for determining if an application meets the terms of the statute.  Thus, an application cannot be denied simply because a board does not want it.  There must be sound legal grounds to deny an application based on some conflict with existing laws or local zoning restrictions.  Under State law, the Planning Board, with the aid of the planning staff, drafts a Master Plan.  After public notice and hearings, it is adopted and zoning ordinances setting out what is permitted or prohibited are adopted by the Township Committee.

Making matters worse, the State dictates to the Planning Board and Township Committee that much of the new housing in Middletown has to meet the Supreme Court’s affordable housing quotas.  This requirement severely limits the local zoning powers of the Township since State law requires that we provide for an obscene number of affordable housing units, which total over 2,000 units to date.  Middletown has aggressively challenged  this affordable housing mandate and is currently awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision.

About 30 percent of our households are at or below the State’s requirements to qualify for affordable housing. It is our position that the law and the Supreme Court decisions that started all of this were intended to stop towns from being “Exclusionary,” in other words from purposely acting to keep lower income families out.

Middletown has never done that. In fact, Middletown developed plenty of affordable housing through the free market in the 1970s and 1980s, long before there were court-imposed mandates to do so.  Middletown has never been opposed to affordable housing designed in a sensible and meaningful way that does not detract from the quality of life of our community.

What we do oppose are huge mandatory numbers for new construction on top of our already abundant supply of existing affordable housing.  Governor Christie tried to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and unburden towns from this oppressive mandate, only to be overruled by a court order.    Middletown is currently pursuing a legal challenge to what we see as a grossly unfair and costly system that takes away the town’s ability to decide its own development destiny.  We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will understand our legal position and rule in Middletown’s favor and allow us to decide on how we develop, not a court order. We must be mindful that until the laws change dramatically or the courts make major changes, the problems towns face relative to affordable housing requirements and their associated quotas will unfortunately continue to be a burden on local taxpayers.

Fortunately, Middletown has very strong, knowledgeable Planning and Zoning Boards that do everything within their legal powers to limit the negative effects of development on the Township.  The Boards must always be diligent in giving an applicant a fair and impartial hearing, while protecting the Township from a legal challenge in the event that an application is turned down.  The latter is often an inescapable part of the process.  As a result, it is imperative that the boards not overstep their bounds and follow the law so the Township can defend its position if it ends up in court.

Even with all of the pressure on the town from court mandates and COAH quotas, Middletown’s efforts to rein in overdevelopment have been largely successful.  Evidence of this lies in the fact that Middletown’s population has remained flat from the year 2000 until now.  In addition, Middletown has a very aggressive open space program that has successfully preserved thousands of acres over the years. 

Although the planning process is guided by State law, the public can and does play a very important role.  When an application comes before a board, the public is encouraged to attend meetings and provide input, either through oral testimony or written comment.  This is extremely valuable for the Planning Board, since many issues and potential flaws in an application will only come to light through this exchange with the public.  Here are some points to remember when appearing before the boards:

-        Review the zoning ordinances that govern development on the proposed property.

-        If you oppose an application, have concrete reasons and facts based on conflicts with the applied variances as to why the application should be turned down.  Just saying you don’t want it is not grounds for denying an application.

-        Whenever possible, provide expert testimony to support your position.

-        Always remember to present your position in a respectful manner.  Insults or threats will only damage what may be a very legitimate objection.

In closing, it is a well known fact that New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the union.  As such, it is critical that all future development be scrutinized and any negative impacts to the community  mitigated as much as humanly possible within the law.  The Middletown Township Committee is dedicated to keeping development in town to a minimum within the constraints of what the law will allow.  To that end, we have aggressively pursued expanding the amount of dedicated open space in town, either through direct purchase or conservation easements, while fighting destructive policies like excessive government-subsidized, low and moderate affordable housing that threaten the remaining open spaces and quality of life we all currently enjoy. 

Keep listening for news about this important issue.

Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger

Middletown Township