The township committee in 2018 was reactive to the state-imposed mandates and were rushed to fulfill those requirements without adequate thought or planning. This has resulted in unnecessary and costly litigation and suboptimal housing that met the mandate, but did not necessarily meet the needs of our community. We need to prepare for potential 2025 mandates now and not be pressured to accept builder’s remedy, developing hundreds of market value units and only a small percentage of affordable housing units, as we were forced to in 2018.
We need to be more innovative, and use a fact-based, creative, and collaborative approach to plan for potential mandates. Bernardsville, for example, has assessed small parcels of township owned land and is looking at the possibility of working with a non-profit developer to build just a few affordable housing units rather than deferring to builder’s remedy. This innovative solution may or may not work for Bernards Township, but we owe it to ourselves to research and consider various alternatives that best retains our community’s charm, minimizes traffic impact, and efficiently meets state obligations while we have the time to do so.
Since taxes, traffic, over-development and the resulting burden on our school system are primary concerns of township residents, I will encourage the township committee to take a proactive approach to start planning now and “think outside the box” to enable solutions that reduce the impact on our infrastructure, limits development, avoids unnecessary and expensive litigation, and helps maintain Bernards Township as one of the most desirable communities to live and work -- all while satisfying state requirements for affordable housing.