Dear Clinton Residents,
I would like to address some issues raised in a recent Letter to the Editor regarding development on the Moebus tract, located behind Center Street and on Route 31 South. Let me begin by stating what has been stated several times at Council-run Town Hall meetings. The Town of Clinton is currently in litigation with the owner of the Moebus property and Fair Share Housing Center related to determination of the Town’s affordable housing obligation. The owner of the property has been granted intervenor status by the Courts, which allows the property owner to be a part of the affordable housing discussions the Town has with Fair Share. The Town has been working diligently to develop a plan that would meet our obligation, however we have run into a few stumbling blocks, including having the property we signed a letter of intent to purchase sold out from under us.
In order to settle the ongoing lawsuit with Fair Share, we must address the intervenor. To that end, the Town has worked closely with our planner and attorney to come up with a plan that would minimize impact to the property and surrounding neighbors while still meeting some of the requests of the property owner. Remember that the original plan that was shared via social media included 5 commercial pad sites and 247 garden apartments (of which 15% would be set aside for affordable). We have negotiated an agreement that would permit the property to be subdivided for both commercial and residential use, with approximately 12.4 acres along Route 31 zoned to permit 3 pad sites, with the remaining 15.6 acres zoned to permit residential development consisting of a total of 56 for-sale townhomes. Approximately 12.6 acres, including lands adjacent to Central Avenue and all lands within 300’ of the South Branch of the Raritan River, would be deeded to the Town and permanently preserved as open space. The agreement to permit development in this manner is predicated on the intervenor agreeing not oppose our affordable housing plan presented to the court.
Additionally, the owner must comply with all zoning requirements and apply to receive approvals from the Land Use Board prior to construction. There will be plenty of opportunity for residents to share thoughts and concerns with the developers during the public hearing process related to development applications.
Now to address some of the issues raised in the letter to the editor:
- The Town is required to work with the intervenor – the court will not allow us to ignore the property owner and ignoring them opens the Town up to Court-mandated development, development that we do not control.
- The only vehicle access to the development will be via Route 31 – the only access via Center Street will be for emergency vehicles and pedestrians
- The commercial will not be a strip mall but 3 separate pad sites.
- The Town of Clinton is in the Highlands Planning Area (lands within the Highlands region that is not in the Preservation area and determined appropriate for development), and the majority of the Town is within the existing community zone according to the Regional Master Plan, not the Preservation Area.
The Town will continue to update residents on the status of upcoming steps as it relates to the Affordable Housing litigation. Immediate next steps include signing the agreement with the intervenor, finalizing a settlement agreement with Fair Share then going in front of the judge for a Fairness Hearing. Once that is complete, the Town will be free to prepare a plan over the next 4 to 6 months, after which the judge holds a compliance hearing to determine that all requirements have been met, after which Clinton would be granted immunity from builder’s lawsuits.
As next steps approach, we will let you know, but also please share your thoughts and concerns directly with us. If you have comments, please provide them in writing so they can be shared with all parties. We have always been open for engagement and are only working and doing what is in the best interest of the Town without creating undo pressure on already stressed resources. By settling with our intervenor, we are effectively gaining 12.6 acres of open space along the South Branch while removing the entire property from future affordable housing litigation which will be coming back sometime within the next 7-10 years.