Franklin Lakes Council Postpones Housing Ordinance Amidst Rising Concerns

At a recent Franklin Lakes Borough Council meeting, the central focus was a proposed housing ordinance, which has now been deferred until after a “fairness hearing” on October 24th.

Opening the debate, the Council highlighted that a substantial 20% of the surrounding residents had signed a petition against the ordinance. The primary concerns cited included potential inconsistencies or misinformation in earlier ordinances, differing legal interpretations concerning a builder remedy deadline, and ambiguity about how federal properties might be used. Council members, notably Gail A. Kelly, voiced a collective sentiment that they hadn’t been given adequate time to deliberate on the Planning Board’s recommendations, leading to concerns over granting developers unchecked authority.

The forthcoming fairness hearing is set to assess if the housing agreement meets the needs of the region’s low and moderate-income households. Some council members, while acknowledging the need for clarity, also raised alarms over the settlement’s specific provisions. The agreement’s tight timelines and deadlines brought up worries about possible legal consequences should they not be adhered to.

The public commentary segment saw a considerable number of residents and professionals sharing their views. Mike Cattuso was particularly critical of the Council’s past decisions, suggesting they might lead to potential litigation He pointedly said, “We just heard your council indicate that if this vote is not approved tonight, You’re subjecting the township to litigation.”

Rob Simon, an attorney representing “Franklin Lakes Residence for Responsible Development, LLC,” emphasized community participation in housing discussions. Quoting a case, Smith vs. Fairhaven, Simon underlined that discussions on such matters should be comprehensive and engage the entire community.

Chris Russo, a long-time Franklin Lakes resident, narrated his personal experience with development regulations from the 1980s, openly questioning a developer’s true intentions. Russo remarked, “I had to do all these things. I had to own the property. I had to go to the planning board with a design. He’s doing neither.” This sentiment seemed to resonate with many in the room, suggesting that developers should be held to the same standards as residents.

Further echoing this sentiment, John Marmora, a land-use attorney, spoke on behalf of two residents, stressing the need for community involvement in refining ordinances, especially by considering the planning board’s report and its recommendations.

In other matters at the meeting, Mayor Charles J.X. Kahwaty announced the “Knockout Opioid Abuse Day” to address the opioid crisis in New Jersey.

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