Protecting Wayne

4/13/2021 from TapIntoWayne

Wayne is under siege from predatory developers like Avalon Bay, who suffered a catastrophic fire at “Avalon Princeton Junction” in West Windsor just last week. Developers are forcing Wayne to rezone properties and accept developments that barely meet the maximum limits of Wayne’s building ordinances; while our leaders throw up their hands and say there is nothing they can do. Shortly, Wayne will have concept plans approved that will add about 3000 units to our existing base of 18,000 – an increase of 17%. These deals will generate less than 1000 of our 2271 round 3 constitutional obligation for affordable units. Round 3 began in 1999 and ends in 2025, but no deals were concluded until December of 2019. Our leaders opted for postponing the inevitable rather than planning. In fact, they say they will not replace our 1994 Master Plan until after our affordable housing situation is resolved.

Planning is Wayne’s only way of protecting itself. The Superior Court will not let Wayne stop the deals in progress. But the court would welcome Wayne planning for the future – for the remainder of the round 3 requirement and for round 4 in 2025. Hopefully, the administration will develop a forward thinking plan to match the myriad of changes we have seen over the quarter century since our Master Plan. They can begin to forge relationships with developers attracted to the quality of Wayne, relationships that could lead to revitalizing Old Wayne, developing the Route 23 Transit Zone, and strengthening ratables throughout the township with redevelopment. Without our input, the administration is likely to continue its surrender – its retreat into reactive mode – when what we need is proactive, planned development.

Residents would do well to recall that it was Governor Chris Christie who defied the Fair Housing Act and dismantled the Council on Affordable Housing; and it was the New Jersey Supreme Court who warned him in one decision and put supervision of the Fair Housing Act in the hands of the court. We should ensure that our Mayor and Town Councilors do not suffer from Christie’s foolhardy fantasies.

What can we do? Join the Zoom township council and planning board sessions and assert the need to protect Wayne from overdevelopment. Understand that our elected officials track how many people join Zoom but cannot track who watches sessions on TV. Realize that the court appointed Special Master and representatives of developers join these Zoom sessions. Above all, participate in the planning board detailed reviews of these projects to help them ensure that Wayne’s standards and the neighborhoods adjoining these projects are protected.

The greatest impact will be on North Wayne’s Alps Road, Hamburg Turnpike, Lionshead Lake, Berdan Avenue, and Pines Lake. Traffic, the electrical grid, and old stormwater and sewer systems are special concerns. The largest project – reportedly 1360 units near the Southern end of the former Toys R Us Headquarters – is still being negotiated. Now is the time to reach out to the Mayor and Town Councilors to insist attractive, low density development consistent with most of Wayne with a higher percentage of affordable units in this project. Furthermore, insist on limiting the future development on this property.

This should not be a partisan issue. Although Governor Christie destroyed the Council on Affordable Housing; Governor Murphy has done nothing to restore it and get the Superior Court out of the process. This is not a situation of government regulation run amuck; it is a situation of government failing to plan for a future that complies with our state’s constitution.

Back in 2013, our Mayor held several public meetings suggesting that development was inevitable and needed planning. Most of you reacted negatively. He should have had the courage to plan for reality anyway. Now is the time to let him know that you understand that we need to protect Wayne from development randomness rather than surrender to it.

John Pennington

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