CRANFORD LOOKS TO APPEAL DECISION ON BIRCHWOOD DEVELOPMENT


WESTFIELD LEADER
OCTOBER 18, 2012
By DELL SIMEONE Specially Written for The Westfield Leader 

CRANFORD – Township Attorney Philip Morin told the Cranford Township Committee Tuesday night that he received a copy of a letter from state Superior Court Judge Lisa F. Chystal, which was written by Stephen Eisendorfer, the attorney for Cranford Development Associates (CDA), the company which seeks to develop 215/235 Birchwood Avenue for a 360-unit apartment complex, 60 of which would be affordable units.

CDA had sued the township via a Builder’s Remedy Lawsuit, and in December of 2011, Judge Chrystal decided in favor of the developer. Cranford was vulnerable because it has not met its fair share housing obligations as set forth by the state’s Mount Laurel agreement.  

The letter sent by Mr. Eisendorfer to Judge Chrystal proposed an order of final judgment, and confirms that the township has complied with the court mandate to amend its Master Plan and adopt an ordinance allowing the CDA to develop the Birchwood property. This step had to be taken before the township could appeal the court’s decision. Mr. Morin said the basis of the appeal is to question all aspects of the trial court’s decision. (click here for letter)

“We’re confident the court can now say that Cranford is in compliance with its obligation with regard to affordable housing, and if so, the township will then be protected from exclusionary zoning litigation  for 10 years,” Mr. Morin said. “We welcome the final judgment and the opportunity to pursue our legal arguments in relation to the trial court decision. The site plan hearing on the Birchwood property was conducted, not in Cranford, [not] by its planning board, but in Superior Court in Elizabeth in August as ordered by Judge Chrystal.”

 Judge Chrystal is still awaiting the recommendations of Judge Douglass Wolfson, the hearing examiner, and from Elizabeth McKenzie, the special master. 

In other business, the township committee adopted an ordinance increasing certain swim pool utility fees. Under the new ordinance, the price for all levels of swim lessons at the summer pool at Orange Avenue and at Centennial Avenue will be a member fee of $80 for nine swimming lessons and a non-member fee of $85 for seven lessons. At the winter pool on Centennial Avenue, the member fee will be $70 for seven lessons and the non-member fee will be $85 for seven lessons. 

The committee also adopted an ordinance designating the portion of Walnut Avenue from North Avenue to Lexington Avenue a 25 mph zone. 

The committee also passed an ordinance on first reading, which would amend the Cranford Municipal Code relating to the historic preservation advisory board and procedure relating to designation of landmarks and districts. The purpose, as stated by the ordinance, is to preserve the historical, cultural, architectural and social heritage of the township. A hearing and final adoption of this ordinance will be held at a future meeting. 

 Mayor David Robinson urged the public to attend tonight’s debate at 8 p.m. in the courtroom/committee chambers of the municipal building on Springfield Avenue between Democrat Tom Hannen, Jr. and Republican Scott Mease, both of whom are vying for Mr. Robinson’s seat on the township committee. The election will determine which party has control of the governing body in 2013. Republicans currently have a 3-2 majority on the committee. Mr. Robinson, a Republican, is not seeking reelection this year.