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AHH 24-Hr. News

AAA: Don’t Drive Distracted
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month Hamilton, NJ – Drunk driving has been a leading cause of fatalities on the road, but another deadly behavior behind the wheel that is sadly gaining in statistics: distracted driving. ... Read More...
IMAGE Gateway Closes Sandy Hook Observation Deck for Repairs; Will Reopen by Memorial Day Weekend
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
Photo: The Observation Deck at Sandy Hook is a great place to see the forest for the trees and the wildlife living there. NPS PHOTO SANDY HOOK, NJ - With the donation of materials from the Sandy Hook Foundation, Gateway National Recreation Area... Read More...
Fulop Announces Campaign for New Jersey Governor
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
Jersey City, NJ – Today, Mayor Steve Fulop proudly announced his candidacy for New Jersey Governor. Running on the Republican line, Fulop has already started lining up key supporters and staff. “Everyone knows Jersey City has always been just a... Read More...
IMAGE NY/NJ Baykeeper Launches First Microplastic Research Initiative with NY/NJ Harbor and Releases Plastic-Free Product Guide
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
PHOTO: Manta trawl net collecting floatables in the NY Harbor off the coast of Jersey City, NJ. KEYPORT, NJ - NY/NJ Baykeeper along with partners and collaborators from Monmouth University's Urban Coast Institute, The Five Gyres Institute,... Read More...
IMAGE Covenant House Event on April 13 in Rumson
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
RUMSON, NJ - Shining stars from seven high schools around Monmouth County will perform show - stopping tunes alongside Broadway Stars Richard Todd Adams, (Phantom, Les Miserables), David Elder (Curtains, 42nd Street) and Darius Kaleb (Motown) to... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Hey, Indiana!
by Anne Mikolay
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
The average American doesn't know much about Indiana other than what we learned in grade school: Indianapolis is your capital, and you grow a lot of... Read More...
IMAGE Another Triumphal Procession
by Woody Zimmerman
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
As a change of pace for the Lenten Season, here’s a reprint of an earlier column-entry. Palm Sunday – occurring on March 29 this year – always... Read More...
IMAGE Making Homes for Fish Hawks
by Joe Reynolds
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Like an old fashioned barn raising, about 15 volunteers  with the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council came together on a clear but chilly Sunday... Read More...
IMAGE Of Food Trucks, Boardwalks, and New Development
by Dennis
Monday, 30 March 2015
Summer is just around the corner, and for those who live at the Jersey Shore, that means two things are guaranteed: the mass influx of tourists is... Read More...
IMAGE Clinton's Delusional Defense of Email
by Jack Archibald
Saturday, 21 March 2015
Last week, former Secretary of State and prospective Democrat President nominee Hillary Clinton channeled her inner H.L. Mencken.  By... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Wed Apr 01 @ 6:30PM -
Middletown Township Planning Board
Wed Apr 01 @ 8:00PM -
Highlands Mayor & Council Mtg
Thu Apr 02 @ 7:30PM -
Highlands Zoning Board Meeting
Fri Apr 03 @ 2:00PM - 07:00PM
Income Tax Help - Union Beach
Mon Apr 06 @ 8:00PM -
Middletown Township Committee Workshop

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