A proposed ordinance allowing an apartment complex near Manchester's Municipal Complex that was introduced by the township council last week received a recommendation from planning board members Monday night.
The ordinance amends Chapter 245 of the township code, allowing for a multifamily development in the town center zone. The area is now zoned for commercial use, but a developer would like to build apartments on the property, said township planner Tom Thomas.
"There's no demand for offices and there's no demand for commercial," Thomas said of the property.
The 50-acre tract of land is near the Wells Fargo bank, diagonally across Route 37 from the municipal complex on Colonial Drive. Bridgewater-based developer Pizzo and Pizzo is interested in the site, which would house 500 units. The property owners requested the zoning change, Thomas said.
"Essentially, what this ordinance would provide for, is that tracts of land 30 acres or larger in the town center zone, one of the optional use developments would be for multifamily homes with a density of 10 units per acre," Thomas said.
Board member William Barron asked whether the ordinance only applies to this tract of land, to which Thomas replied yes. Though other similarly sized lots exist within the township, state wetlands restrictions would make their development difficult.
"There's no way in the world we're going to get anything in there," Thomas said.
The ordinance is the result of an amendment to the Manchester's master plan and was recommended in a reexamination report two years ago.
Pizzo and Pizzo mostly develops in northern New Jersey, but has completed a project in Toms River. The company would maintain the complex if and when it is completed, according to Thomas.
"They are builders and managers," Thomas said. "It's not like they're going to build the units and walk off."
In accordance with affordable housing rules of the state, 20 percent, or 100 units, would be designated as low or moderate income housing, Thomas said.
If a plan for a nearby 40 to 50-unit veteran's housing complex comes to fruition, Thomas said there has been "some discussion" of transferring those affordable housing units to that project.
The veteran's housing is being considered on Route 37 across the street and 400 to 500 feet to the west from the potential apartment site. If the affordable housing units are transferred, they would "probably" be funded by the potential Pizzo and Pizzo development, Thomas said.
Donald Czekanski, who in addition to his role as a planning board member also serves on the township's Veteran's Advisory Committee, said that Mayor Michael Fressola has been working toward getting the veteran's housing project to come to fruition.
"We've had some discussions about it," he said. "I think it's a real great plan if it materializes."
Transferring the units to the potential veteran's housing would be beneficial to both developers, Thomas said. The apartment developer would receive regular-priced rent from more units while the veteran's complex will be maintained by a nonprofit organization.
A draft ordinance for the veteran's housing project is anticipated at the next planning board meeting.
All buildings on the perimeter at the potential multifamily site would be a maximum of two stories; three story structures are permitted but must be within the site's interior, Thomas said.
Thomas estimated that each unit might sell for about $100,000. They will be primarily two-bedroom apartments which are open to the general public and are not restricted to seniors.
Resident Hank Glenn asked if it would be beneficial for the board to consider a change to the proposed ordinance that would require recreation areas to improve the development's appeal.
Such a requirement may turn off developers, said board attorney Edward Liston. The application would be required to come before the planning board, at which time members can make a decision about recreation areas.
The ordinance was introduced on first reading by the council on April 23; the planning board made a motion to recommend it on second reading to the governing body, Liston said. The council will hold a second reading and hear public comment on the ordinance before voting on its adoption on May 29.