We are a group of involved residents from the Cranford community who have come together for one reason — to be better informed about the decisions being made that affect the future of our town. This site is available for Cranford citizens as a reference relating to Cranford development. We do not support the solicitation of money nor are affiliated with any political party or candidate for elected office.
CRANFORD--A TOWN CITIFIED THROUGH 15% AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Brian Campbell, NJ Voices
December 21, 2011
There is something about an old town that warms the soul; a walking village with 19th century Victorians, wooden steeples and giant willow trees rising high above a river; where footbridges lead to elementary schools and an elevated train station overlooks a village. In the winter a young person can skate all over town. In the summer he/she can kayak the same route, peering at the backyard barbecues that line the river before watching the fireworks burst over the park.
Cranford, only fifteen miles from Manhattan, is an age-old community of down to earth souls and relatively modest homes. It's a good place to grow up and a good place to raise a family. When my colleagues, many of which are globetrotters, asked me where I lived, I said the same town I grew up in. They looked at me as if I had just stepped off of a horse and buggy. Today I watch my boys skip the same stones into the same river and walk the same footpaths that I did.
How can they do this, you ask? The townspeople don't want it. The schools, the roadways, the environment, and the public safety infrastructure can't handle it. No matter, says Trenton and its activist judges. There is no vote, no deliberation, no sensitivity analysis and no care whatsoever for the inhabitants, all of which have worked hard to live in a town of their choosing. How can they do this, you ask?
Easy. They just do it. And all of it occurs by way of 15% affordable housing. That's right, through the vagaries of the COAH law, only 15% of a proposed builder's remedy development, or 54 of them in this case, are required to be affordable housing. The rest, or 300 units, can be at prevailing market rates to continuously line the pockets of the builder. And that 15% is what gives absolute power to the developer. That 15% takes the power from We the people and our elected local representatives and gives it to outside lawyers. That 15% takes the power from our township engineers, public safety officials, board of education members and budget offices and gives it to the S. Hekemian Group, a Paramus-based builder of apartment complexes. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. It is a court order based on what they refer to as builder remedy litigation.
It turns out that the proposed apartment complex will sit directly on top of sensitive freshwater wetlands, including a tributary of the river that rose up during the hurricane. Therefore, whenever there are catastrophic rains, cars are swallowed whole on Birchwood Avenue and the tributary becomes a monster. It roars into basements, through windows, through garages and as scores of families can attest, into front doors. One doesn't need much of an imagination to envision what this little state-mandated complex will do to the precarious water tables and future flooding throughout the old town. Do the courts care? Of course not.
Perhaps there will come a day when our public servants in Trenton will take the power out of the hands of the developers (and the activist courts) and put it back into the hands of the people. Perhaps they will stop mandating what should go where and when, stop superseding local ordinances, reasonable zoning and quality of life. Perhaps they will yet again respect private property, representative government and local solutions to local problems. Perhaps, if the state and the courts wants affordable housing in the future, they will build it themselves. Of course they don't have the money nor the political will; hence, this nearly corrupt strategy of giving developers absolute power in exchange for a smattering of affordable units.
Perhaps my dear old town doesn't become a dense urban environment, but there are unexpected and unanswerable cracks in the foundation. Even if this massive development goes through, the 54 units will only satisfy a very small portion of the mandated housing units we must build. If it doesn't go through there will be more lawsuits and more mandates. Farmland, parkland, and even township land could be at risk (who knows, maybe my small parcel of land too). Many more residential buildings may have to go up around town, shadowing the old village and topping the wooden spires throughout. Subsequently, Cranford's fight to retain its small town character will end.
And give way to the powers that be. Apparently, progress is only found in concrete.