PARK RIDGE, N.J. — Five Pascack Valley towns are teaming up to take a regional perspective on affordable housing, in an effort to find reasonable solutions that will protect the integrity of their communities.
Montvale Mayor Mike Ghassali, Park Ridge Mayor Keith Misciagna and Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo announced they are forming a committee to discuss affordable housing and development — arguably the most pressing issues in each of their towns.
Hillsdale Mayor Doug Frank and River Vale Mayor Glen Jasionowski have also signed on to join the effort. Officials said the committee will likely include the mayors, along with a council member and a community member from each borough. Misciagna said other surrounding towns will likely be invited to join their efforts in the near future.
Along with most municipalities in New Jersey, Montvale, Park Ridge and Woodcliff Lake filed declaratory judgments with the state Superior Court in 2015 to have a judge review their plans to provide low- and moderate-income housing. The Fair Share Housing Center, an affordable-housing advocacy group, is an intervenor in the judgments.
Though the towns are at various stages in the planning process and facing unique challenges, officials said considering the issue in a vacuum does not make sense.
“We’re working against ourselves when we just do traffic impact and other studies that only affect our town,” Misciagna told The Record (https://njersy.co/2tQkn9T). “A lot of the proposed development borders other towns. It’s common sense to start looking at it from a regional perspective.”
Rendo agreed, saying that since the towns are “tied at the hip,” it’s appropriate to come up with a regional plan that the Fair Share Housing Center might find acceptable. He added that the state encourages regionalization on affordable-housing needs.
Joining forces is something the towns should have done a long time ago, Ghassali said. Actions taken in one borough will obviously affect their neighbors, he said.
The committee will give the towns a chance to share information and plans so they don’t “overstep each other with different plans, looks and characters,” Ghassali said.
Park Ridge and Montvale are particularly well-suited to team up, given that the soon-to-be-vacant Sony property straddles the border between the towns. A developer, Hornrock Properties, has claimed its plans to build housing on the property could help both municipalities meet their affordable-housing obligations.
Hornrock wants to build 700 units of housing on the 30 acres of the property that is in Park Ridge, and 160 units on the 7 acres in Montvale. Hornrock had been in negotiations with the two boroughs, but both towns recently turned down settlement agreements with the developer. Park Ridge has hired special counsel to defend the town in court.
Misciagna said the towns’ efforts to protect themselves — such as hiring special experts and counsel — all cost money. The new committee could help the towns share resources, resulting in cost savings, he said.
“When you do things on your own, there’s duplication of efforts,” Misciagna said. “We’re not trying to stop affordable housing. We’re trying to get development that our residents can live with. If we do it jointly, we can save money.”
Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com