By Angie Devanney, Stephen Yellin & Alvaro Medeiros
Last week, the Township of Warren voted to accept a court-imposed settlement with the NJ Fair Share Housing Center. This was unwelcome news for many Berkeley Heights residents. As many will recall, this is the same property that Berkeley Heights residents overwhelmingly voted to prevent overdevelopment on Emerson Lane in 2013. Now we are faced with a project on the exact same spot; Warren Township plans to build nearly 200 housing units there.
Since the proposed development is located in Warren, Berkeley Heights government does not approve or deny any development planned for the parcel. However, it appears as if the project would rely on sewer capacity from the Berkeley Heights Wastewater Treatment Plant. If elected, Angie, Stephen and Alvaro will unapologetically oppose any agreement allowing Warren to hook up to the Berkeley Heights sewer if it requires a vote by council.
Further, it appears that the current Berkeley Heights Township attorney participated in talks with the Warren Township attorney related to the sewer, despite having a conflict as the son of the Mayor of Warren. While we are not attorneys and are unsure if this would provide legal basis to nullify any agreements that may already be in place, we will certainly investigate if it can be legal grounds to stop the development.
While the settlement was just recently confirmed, this is not a new subject to the Berkeley Heights governing body. Documents have surfaced revealing that one year ago, in October of 2017, the Town Council, through the Township Attorney, provided a letter stating that Berkeley Heights has the requisite sewer capacity to accept and process the sewage from this planned development in Warren. It was only when the settlement was proposed that the governing body made a public showcase of hiring an attorney to consult on our options. Our elected officials owe us an explanation as to why they didn’t say “no” and why they did not provide residents with any information about the situation in a timely manner.
Our Mayor and Township Council have not been transparent when it comes to informing residents about the Warren Affordable Housing situation. If we are elected, we will do whatever possible to prevent this project from proceeding. Going forward, we will ensure full transparency and accountability to ensure residents know as much as possible before major developments like this are formally adopted.