Passaic City Council Addresses Affordable Housing and Zoning Issues Amidst Resident Concerns

During the February 20th, 2024, Passaic City Council meeting, issues of affordable housing development, transparency in city funding, and zoning for accessory dwelling units took center stage. Residents raised concerns over the allocation of $2.5 million in home funds to Twin Investments for affordable housing on a relatively small lot, questioning the fairness and potential overvaluation of tax breaks and funds. Additionally, the proposal to allow accessory dwelling units in all zoning districts, aimed at addressing the shortfall in affordable housing, sparked a discussion on the impact of increased density, parking, and the city’s affordability strategy.

The council confronted a resident’s concern about Twin Investments’ project, which, despite costing $3.3 million to build, would only be valued at $1.3 million upon completion, puzzling many over the apparent financial discrepancy. Councilman Chaim M. Munk expressed skepticism over the investment’s effectiveness. However, it was clarified that the project initially planned for only two affordable units, was revised to be 100% affordable, aligning with HUD regulations. Despite concerns, the council approved the funding, emphasizing the necessity to meet affordable housing needs under HUD guidelines.

The meeting also delved into the complexities of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), colloquially known as “granny suites” or “mother-daughter” units. This proposal was part of a broader discourse on the city’s constitutional obligation to realistically address the affordable housing deficit, estimated at a thousand units. The council discussed the ordinance targeting the aging population and offering housing options for young adults, with a focus on maintaining affordability for homeowners, income-restricted housing, and additional sources of income for homeowners.

Parking and traffic implications of ADUs were scrutinized, with Councilman Gary Schaer questioning the wisdom of allowing two ADUs per property and the potential for increased neighborhood density. Mayor Hector C. Lora underscored the importance of planning for worst-case scenarios while supporting multi-generational living arrangements and affordable housing. The council ultimately decided to send the ADU proposal to the planning board for further review.

An ordinance about the affordable housing requirement for developments of five or more units was also a topic of contention. The council debated the 20% affordable housing stipulation for sale units and 15% for rentals. The financial implications for developers and the city’s development landscape were at the forefront of the discussion. Although Councilman Munk suggested potentially lowering the percentage, the council passed the ordinance with the 20% requirement, with an openness to future adjustments, based on thorough state-level studies and statistics.

Moreover, the council addressed resident Yos W’s frustration over the accessibility and timing of the meeting agenda and the legality of holding the public meeting the day after a legal holiday. The council affirmed they met all legal notice requirements and emphasized efforts to make meeting documents accessible online, although not legally required. Mayor Lora and the council defended the transparency of their actions and committed to ensuring public access to relevant information.

Safety concerns near schools were brought to the fore by another resident who advocated for state-mandated pedestrian walkways and criticized the decision to place a concession stand at a local park. The mayor and council president reassured that safety measures were being taken seriously and that the governing body cannot discriminate against legally operating businesses. The resident’s speaking time was cut short, leading to a debate on meeting conduct.

Councilman Schaer accentuated the equitable distribution of city services and investment across all areas, in response to allegations of service disparities.

Mr. Mack’s concern over reckless biking in the city was addressed, with the council noting the police department’s jurisdiction over legal action against traffic violations. Joe Conen’s grievances about illegal parking, a church’s fence, garbage issues, and safety hazards at a construction site also received the council’s attention. They discussed the complexities of enforcement and the necessity for legal compliance.

Ordinances for disabled parking and the city’s towing ordinance were other key points. The latter particularly gained attention when Councilman Schaer shared a resident’s ordeal of an exorbitant $88,000 towing fee, prompting discussions on towing practices and fee regulation. The council expressed satisfaction with the towing ordinance’s overall effectiveness despite initial challenges.

Lastly, the council resolved to adjourn after a review of bills and discussions on legislative changes, including the registration of electronic bikes and parking solutions for commercial student transport vehicles.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Hector C. Lora
City Council Officials:
Gary Schaer, Jose Garcia, Dr. Terrence L. Love, Thania Melo, Maritza Colon-Montañez, Chaim M. Munk, Daniel J. Schwartz

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