Need seen for age-restricted housing zones

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:46

    FRANKLIN—Under much scrutiny and criticism, the borough council gave unanimous approval to a resolution last week requesting the planning board to review the possibility of amending the current master plan and rezoning ordinances to allow for high-density, age-restricted zoning in some areas. The resolution should at least "be on for discussion" at the planning board's June 21 meeting, one borough official said. With the Highlands Water Protection and Preservation bill seen as being likely to be adopted, in one form or another by the state soon, local officials feel Franklin, which will not be affected by most of the plan's restrictions, will become a target of developers. At least one major developer has already requested a zoning change on property he owns, with several more expected to do so sometime in the future, including Jerry Nardella of Wayne-based Sunbrite Investments, which wants to build an age-restricted condominium complex on property still occupied by the former Franklin Hospital. "A request is made that the planning board review the existing borough ordinances and Master Plan since the current (ones) did not anticipate the need for age-restricted housing," the resolution reads. "In reviewing this matter, the Planning Board should consider designating appropriate zones within the borough for high density restricted housing." Mayor Doug Kistle said, "I would say we definitely have to look at the possibility of doing that. Otherwise, we would have nothing in that area but single-family homes, which would increase the population of the schools. And then what would you have to do? Taxes would go up. "So that's why age-restricted housing keeps the school population down and brings in a clean ratable for own town," the mayor added. In discussing municipal land use law stipulations, borough attorney Richard Clark said the final matter will be up to the main governing body itself. "The planning board makes the final decision as to what the master plan says, but the mayor and council may pass an ordinance that's not consistent with it—as long as they recognize it's not consistent at the time they're doing it," Clark explained. Prior to the resolution's adoption, several residents expressed their unhappiness with the concept of added congestion in and around the borough, even with age restrictions in place. "None of this is brand new," stated July Williams, the Franklin Historical Society's vice-president who has become one of the leading voices urging caution and restraint in regard to future development. "And I feel as a resident that there's an urgency to pursue ratables because that's really what it's all about. But when you get a chance, would you get out there on Route 23 at some terrible (peak) hour, and I think you'll find out you're not going to get far. "Let's not be on a ratables chase just because we may have budget problems," Williams concluded. Clark noted with some irony that as recently as two or three years ago, developers seemed to have little or no interest in pursuing age-restricted housing, but that has changed.