Cranford Chronicle
Leslie Murray
May 10, 2011

A plan to allow the developer of the Riverfront Redevelopment Project to construct an additional 18 units at the site in exchange for an impact fee has drawn criticism from two former mayors, both of whom worked on the deal that set the parameters for the project.

The Township Committee announced the plan to allow Garden Homes to build the additional units on April 26, the first time the deal was discussed in public. This week Mayor Daniel Aschenbach and Township Attorney Daniel McCarthy said the township will receive a payment of $756,000 as a “sewer and parking impact fee.”

The expansion of the project came under question as Mark Smith and Bob Puhak, both former Republican mayors, said that concerted effort was made in reaching a deal in 2008 that capped the multi-use project at 108 units.

McCarthy said the discussion about the additional 18 units – including three affordable housing units– at the project on South Avenue began when the developer contacted his office, questioning if the township would allow more density in exchange for an impact fee.

“They’re getting ready to begin construction,” McCarthy said, offering comment on the timing of the talks.

Commissioner David Robinson said the number of units was based on the space made available by adding another floor to a proposed residential building fronting on Chestnut Street. The South Avenue fa├žade of the project would be unchanged by the additional units, Robinson said.

Still Smith said he believed the township had moved too hastily in allowing the developer to build more units.

“My concern would be jumping too quickly (to change) something that was sitting for four years,” Smith said.

“There was a lot of work done by a lot of people to reach this agreement. We worked very hard to get the number of (residential) units right,” Puhak said. “It just sounds like a very low price tag for that big a jump in units.”

Asked to define the equation that he felt would be an equitable fee, Puhak said the projected profit for each of the additional units should be considered.

“We’re not buying the units, we’re getting an impact fee,” Aschenbach asserted.
McCarthy said this marked the first time the township would get any kind of impact fee from the developer of a redevelopment project.

“There wasn’t any developer fee previously for any redevelopment project for Cranford up to this point,” McCarthy said. “That’s an anomaly around the state.”

The proposal to allow 18 additional units at the Riverfront Redevelopment Project will be heard by the Planning Board on May 18.