Fair Share Housing Center Challenges Zoning For Red Bulls Training Facility In Morris Township

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 3rd, 2022

Contact:

Alex Staropoli, (914) 469-0060, alexstaropoli@fairsharehousing.org

 

Fair Share Housing Center Challenges Zoning for Red bulls Training Facility In Morris Township

Morris Township Failed to Consider Vacant Land for Affordable Housing Before Re-Zoning it for Another Purpose

 

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ –Today, Fair Share Housing Center filed a complaint in Morris County Superior Court to challenge the validity of zoning Ordinance 27-21, passed in December 2021by the Morris Township Committee, that rezones land from the old Honeywell headquarters to allow for an athletic training facility for the New York Red Bulls soccer team. 

The complaint alleges that Morris Township unlawfully rezoned vacant land without revisiting and recalculating the vacant land adjustment that was granted to the Township as part of its affordable housing settlement with Fair Share Housing Center in 2017.

“Fair Share Housing Center is committed to ensuring that all towns in New Jersey comply with their affordable housing obligations,” said Rachel Lokken, a Staff Attorney at Fair Share Housing Center. “Morris Township’s attempt to circumvent its obligation by rezoning limited vacant land for another purpose is exactly the type of exclusionary zoning that the Mount Laurel Doctrine protects against.”

“Per our settlement agreement and well-established case law in New Jersey,” continued Lokken,“Morris Township is constitutionally obligated to disclose information about any newly available vacant land so that its affordable housing obligation can be recalculated accordingly and additional affordable homes built.”

Under Mount Laurel, all towns in New Jersey are required to provide their fair share of the region’s affordable housing. Affordable housing obligations are sometimes adjusted based on a town’s realistic development potential, which includes an assessment of vacant land available for development. 

Morris Township received a significant adjustment of its obligation because it claimed at the time that it did not have sufficient land, resulting in the Township only fully addressing about half of its obligation. 

At the time of settlement with Morris Township, the Honeywell tract in question was excluded from the vacant land adjustment because it was not vacant at the time. Now that it is vacant and available for development, the affordable housing obligation for Morris Township must be 

recalculated because the realistic development potential in the town has changed. Morris Township’s rezoning of this land, without recalculating its realistic development potential, was unlawful and a blatant attempt to thwart its requirement to plan for additional affordable housing.

In fact, during a Township Meeting on 12/2/21, Paul Phillips, Morris Township’s Planning Consultant, stated that the vacant land in question could potentially be used for affordable housing in the future. His statements make clear that the Township knew the land was suitable for housing, and as such, they also should have known that its vacancy would have an impact on the Township’s affordable housing obligation.

Fair Share Housing Center has settled more than 300 cases in New Jersey under the Mount Laurel Doctrine. The Mount Laurel Doctrine has played an integral role in the development of affordable housing throughout the state. Fair Share Housing Center estimates that more than 70,000 affordable units have been built as a result of the Doctrine, with approximately 50,000 more in development. Preventing exclusionary zoning is critical to ensuring that all residents in New Jersey have a safe, healthy, and affordable place to live.

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