Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit dedicated to defending the housing rights of New Jersey’s poor and ensuring municipalities provide affordable housing, filed a lawsuit against Hoboken this month over amendments to the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan.
The western edge
Redeveloping Hoboken’s western edge began over a decade ago, in 2006, when the planning board launched an investigation and held a public hearing recommending that the Western Edge Study Area qualified as an Area in Need of Redevelopment.
Based on the findings of the report, the city council declared roughly six blocks just east of the light rail tracks between Ninth Street and 14th Street a Redevelopment Area the following year.
A draft redevelopment plan was prepared for the city in September 2008, but it was met with public resistance due to the excessive height of the buildings, an inadequate amount of open space, and the lack of a cohesive plan for a community center.
The council adopted a revised plan, created in 2014 with public input, in 2015.
A portion of the redevelopment area known as the Jefferson Street Subsection is currently under a redevelopment agreement between the city and Just Block 112, LLC or Pegasus Partners.
Currently, the agreement allows for a project consisting of two residential towers containing 207 units, including 21 affordable units, and a separate hotel at 166 feet over design flood elevation.
Retail and parking would be provided at the base of each building.
In April, the city council adopted an ordinance with a 7-2 vote amending the redevelopment plan that would allow the city to negotiate with developers for a new recreational facility and community pool in exchange for additional building heights and other allowances.
The amendments establish parameters for maximum bonus development in the Jefferson Street Subarea of the Western Edge Redevelopment Plan, including up to five additional stories of up to 150 units as well as additional height to the hotel of up to 216 feet.
These additional 150 units would be exempt from the city’s 10 percent affordable housing set aside requirement, meaning the city would miss out on 15 units of affordable housing in exchange for the community center developer give backs.
Fair Share Housing Center takes exception to the loss of affordable housing.
According to the suit filed on June 1 in Hudson County Superior Court, Fair Share Housing Center seeks to have the amended plan declared void. The suit claims the amendments violate the city’s master plan, which recognizes the need for affordable housing.
According to transcripts of the Planning Board, several board members raised concerns regarding the affordable housing exemption and its inconsistencies with the master plan.
“I feel strongly that the exemption of 140 units of the affordable housing requirement is inconsistent with the master plan and what we are trying to achieve,” said Chairman Frank Magaletta during the board’s review of the then proposed amendments.
But, the planning board found the amendments consistent with the master plan in a 6-2 vote but noted for the council “its desire to achieve the greatest affordable housing supply possible via the Redevelopment Agreement negotiations.”
Fair Share Housing Center claims the amendments violate the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance and the Mount Laurel doctrine, a provision of the New Jersey Constitution which requires municipalities to address affordable housing needs.
Fair Share Housing Center seeks to have the court find the amendments “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable, and contrary to public policy,” and the amendments declared “invalid, illegal, null, void, and without effect,” as well as providing reimbursement for attorney fees, costs of the suit, and any other “equitable relief as may be just and proper.”
The suit is filed against the City of Hoboken, Hoboken Planning Board, and Just Block 112 LLC.
City officials did not immediately return a request for comment.