Ocean City Presented several Affordable Housing Ordinances at the November 27 City Council Meeting.

(From Patch)

OCEAN CITY, NJ — After reaching an agreement with Fair Share Housing in July, Ocean City is moving forward on its plan to satisfy its affordable housing obligation.

Ocean City Council introduced several pieces of legislation regarding its affordable housing obligation at the Nov. 29 meeting. Council introduced four pieces of legislation on introduction that deal with affordable housing.

During that meeting, a representative from the Ocean City watchdog group Fairness In Taxes (FIT) voiced concerns about the high cost of bringing housing to Ocean City, which is between $11 million and $12 million. The public also voiced concerns about transparency from the government.

These are concerns that have been heard at municipal meetings throughout New Jersey as towns reach agreements to fill their obligations, then must come up with a plan to build all the housing.

Two court decisions in the 1970s established that municipalities must have an affordable housing aspect included in their master plans. Two rounds of obligations were met statewide, but there has been a long stall as it relates to the third round of affordable housing requirements.

The number of required affordable housing units in municipalities statewide has been in dispute, and often in litigation, since 1999. In 2015, authority concerning setting affordable housing requirements for municipalities throughout the state fell on the courts.

The Fair Share Housing Center, a public interest group established in 1975 to monitor, enforce and expand guidelines for affordable housing requirements, has acted as an intervenor on the issue throughout the state.

Fair Share Housing and Ocean City reached an agreement on 1,687 units based on Ocean City’s prior need of 411 units and the third round need of 1,276 units. These units must be built by 2025.

Because the issue is often in litigation, municipalities claim they are limited by what can be said in public, but they all echo the sentiment that they must find a way to meet their need under state mandate.

“This isn’t fair, but we’re here, and we have to deal with it,” Ocean City Councilman Bob Barr said. “I wish we didn’t have to, but we need to do it the best way we can and that’s what we’re doing.”

Ocean City will hold a town hall meeting once it has the details ironed out so residents know what is happening, officials said.

“The state’s telling us what we have to do,” Councilman Keith Hartzell said. “People have this in their head that it’s negotiable, but it’s not.”

Hartzell said there’s also a stigma associated with affordable housing. In many cases, there are people who have been living in Ocean City their whole lives who have retired and can’t afford to live in the city anymore.

“We have an obligation to help those people,” Hartzell said. “We have to find a way to help our seniors. I’m not a welfare person, but there are some people we have to help. If we can help them, we should.”

Barr is also the Chairman of the Ocean City Housing Authority, and said that OCHA has put together the best team possible to help take care of those in need.

“I have complete faith in them and what they’re doing,” Barr said. “We’re coming out of a difficult situation, and we’re going to help a lot of folks.”

Legislation that was introduced at the meeting includes (detailed descriptions can be found in the agenda packet posted on the city’s website):

No. 18-19 – An Ordinance Amending, Revising and Supplementing XXV, Zoning and Land Development Ordinance of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Ocean City to Provide for a Minimum Set Aside of Affordable Housing Units to Meet the City of Ocean City’s Affordable Housing Obligation and Repealing All Ordinances Heretofore Adopted the Provisions of Which are Inconsistent Therewith.

City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the city can’t come close to meeting this obligation on its own, and this proposal would help facilitate construction through private developers. Councilwoman Karen Bergman called this an “excellent way to share the responsibility.”

No. 18-20 – An Ordinance Amending Chapter XXV, Article 100, Section 25-107 of the Ocean City Zoning and Land Development Ordinance to Revise the Definition of “Municipal Uses” to Include City-Sponsored Affordable Housing.

McCrosson said it’s cheaper to build affordable housing on city owned land. This proposal would make city-sponsored construction of affordable family units a “municipal use.” This would enable affordable housing to be built in every zone of the city, that it is not all concentrated in one area.

There are some proposed locations that were named in the settlement agreement, but those are tentative. If the city identifies other properties they would like to build on, it could do so if it’s a permitted use, McCrosson said. The city can also add to an existing space, including an existing office space, which McCrosson said the city is considering in the downtown business district.

No. 18-21 – An Ordinance Replacing the Entire Contents of the Existing Fair Share Ordinance of the Revised Ordinances of Ocean City, Cape May County, New Jersey (Article 2000 of the Ocean City Zoning and Land Development Ordinance) to Address the Requirements of the Fair Housing Act and the Uniform Housing Affordability Controls (UHAC) Regarding Compliance with the City’s Affordable Housing Obligations and Repealing All Ordinances Heretofore Adopted, the Provisions of which are Inconsistent Herewith.

This ordinance would incorporate details of the settlement into the existing ordinance. The settlement is mandated by the state, but aspects of it have been tailored specifically for Ocean City, McCrosson said.

No. 18-22 – An Ordinance Establishing Rules, Regulations and Standards Governing the Zoning of Land with the City of Ocean City, County of Cape May, Pursuant to the Authority Set Forth as Chapter 55 of Title 40 of the Revised Statutes and Amendments and Supplements Thereto, Setting Forth a Development Fee to be Applied by the Planning Board, Zoning Board and the Governing Body in the Development of Land.

This ordinance would update the city’s ordinance that requires developers to pay fees into the affordable housing trust fund by changing references to the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) with references to the court; increasing the residential development fee from 1 percent up to 1.5 percent; exempting owner-occupied homes that were destroyed by fire, flood or other natural disaster from paying a development fee; and reflecting that the city will monitor the fees.

“Development will be expensive, and this helps spread the burden to others beyond the taxpayers,” McCrosson said.

She also stressed it would only be applicable in cases of increased density. If a single-family home is torn down and replaced by two smaller single-family homes on the same lot, it would only be applicable to the second home. Duplexes are still not permitted in single-family zones, she said.

It’s only applied to the assessed value, not the selling price, she said. Council Vice President Tony Wilson was concerned about putting the added cost on the developers, but Hartzell pointed out that the cost will be passed on to the cost of the home.

“We’re one of the highest appreciating markets in the country, and we have been since I got here,” Hartzell said. “I don’t think half a percent will curb development. The burden does have to be spread.”

“If we don’t do this, all the burden goes to the taxpayer,” Barr said. “This won’t stop anyone from doing business in Ocean City, but if we can mitigate the cost, we ought to.”

Councilman Michael DeVlieger said he would like to know how many projects this proposal would impact in a given year. Other council members agreed that they wanted to see some examples of what the impact would be. The vote on this proposal was 6-1, with Wilson voting no. All other votes were unanimous.

All four proposals will go before the planning board for consistency reports on Wednesday, Dec. 5. That meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be held in council chambers at City Hall, 861 Asbury Avenue. They are then scheduled to go for a public hearing and final vote at the Dec. 13 council meeting.

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