In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision regarding municipalities’ “Mt. Laurel” or “COAH” (Council on Affordable Housing) obligations going forward, there has been some misinformation circulating regarding Readington Township’s status. Simply put, Readington is in a very good position compared to the vast majority of towns in the State.
Readington is one of only approximately 60 townships in New Jersey that “acted quickly… and had been granted substantive certification” under COAH’s third round rules. The Supreme Court noted, in discussing towns like Readington, “these towns deserve an advantage in the judicial review that shall take place. Implemented ordinances should not be lightly disturbed unless necessary…”.
Readington is acting to address the process laid out in the Court’s March 10th opinion. Mayor Fort has appointed a sub-committee which has already met. We will be filing a declaratory judgment action to demonstrate Readington’s constitutional compliance with the Fair Housing Act before the July 8th deadline, and we fully expect that Readington’s Master Plan Housing Element will ultimately be declared constitutionally compliant as it always has been in the past. Not everyone sees this measured approach as the best approach, however.
Sam Tropello, who has endorsed our opponents in the Republican Primary for Township Committee, recently distributed a spreadsheet purporting to show how the Township could gain 600 COAH units by allowing a developer to build 3,000 housing units in Readington. Increasing the number of households in our Township by 50%, which is what this “plan” would entail, would completely change the character of Readington. This ill-advised plan would cause our taxes to skyrocket due to the need to build new schools to educate the approximately 6,000 new schoolchildren this “plan” would bring, not to mention the impact on traffic, the environment, and our quality of life. Unfortunately, this is the type of thinking that results from inexperience and unfamiliarity with the issue at hand. We are well aware that just as there is no free lunch, there are no “free” COAH units.
There is clearly a big difference of opinion on this and many other important issues: that is why a debate is so critical this primary election season. Unfortunately, while we are ready and willing to debate the issues, our opponents have declined an invitation to debate saying they are simply too busy. Our opponents apparently fail to realize the extent of the time commitment which each individual gives when they volunteer to serve the community on Township Boards, Committees or Commissions; they have apparently not had the time or interest to even attend the meetings of the Boards they hope to serve on.
We have been involved in developing Readington Township’s COAH-compliant plan for at least the last 10 years as members of the Planning Board. We have the knowledge and experience to keep Readington on the right track with respect to the Township’s affordable housing obligations, and we know that when you see a mouse, you don’t scream and leap into the arms of a waiting developer, you go get the mousetrap.
Liz Duffy and Ben Smith