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Oceanport Holds Off On Affordable Housing Site Decision

OCEANPORT: The future site of two affordable housing units in the borough will not be decided until the planning board can make a recommendation to the council.

The project came about as a result of the lawsuit filed by a developer in 2005 which stated that the borough was not filling its affordable housing requirements. It is part of the affordable housing plan for the first two Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). Future obligations are still being decided by the courts.

Councilman John Patti made a motion during the May 12 Oceanport Council meeting to seek an extension with the judge while the Oceanport Planning Board meets to review three municipally-owned sites that could accommodate the units. That meeting will likely take place later this month, and the board will then make a recommendation to the council.

Patti and other council members said they did not have enough information on the lots to make a decision and felt the planning board would be better equipped to make a decision.

"I want our planning board to tell us, that's what they are entrusted to do," Patti said.

Habitat For Humanity had identified an empty, municipally-owened lot on the corner of Pemberton Avenue and East Main Street as the space where it like the two 1,200-squre-foot homes to be built.

However, the lot is located across the street from the Oceanport First Aid Squad, and is currently used as an overflow parking lot for the building. Squad members and Pemberton Avenue residents said that the loss of the parking lot would cause people to park along the street and in front of homes.

Borough Planner Elizabeth McManus was tasked with identifying other sites and said the other options are a borough-owned lot on Horseneck Point along a paper street called Orchard Drive. The other option is a 1.8-acre site near the rear of the old borough hall property at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Monmouth Boulevard.

All three sites have negatives and Mayor Jay Coffey said that whatever decision the borough makes, one group of residents will be unhappy. He had hoped the council would make a decision on the site at last night's meeting to avoid any future litigation.

"I think to the judge this looks like a Ray Guy-like punt, we're abdicating our responsibility and not providing the planning board with anything more than saying 'we can't do our homework, can you do it for us'," Coffey said. "This body decided to look elsewhere."

McManus said she did not know how the judge would react to hearing that the borough is seeking an extension to its deadline to select a site and reach a redevelopment agreement with Habitat For Humanity.

"The borough is currently in violation of the judgment of repose," McManus said. "They could decide not to grant the extension and that would problematic."

Not granting the extension would remove the borough's immunity from future builder's remedy lawsuits or the judge could simply say the Pemberton Avenue location will be the site for the affordable housing units and not give the borough a choice.

Coffey said if the judge does not grant the extension, the council would likely have to quickly organize a special meeting and make a decision on the site.

Read more from: Oceanport

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