The Jersey City Council referred the Journal Square Redevelopment Plan ordinance to include a minimum of 10 percent affordable housing for future development to the planning board for revisions instead of taking a first reading vote at last night’s meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“I am recommending that the council withdraw this from the agenda,” Corporation Counsel Peter Baker, who questioned the legality of it during caucus, explained last night.
He said the issue lies with imposing affordable housing without a benefit to property owners, “which is a very clear law in the State of New Jersey.” Baker added that it has to be referred to the planning board first.
“Any meaningful changes that would come back from the planning board to this ordinance would require reintroduction anyway,” he noted.
Baker added they would work with the council on the amended version “to get us to the policy goal of increasing affordable housing in the city.”
Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano, the primary sponsor, said he still wanted a council vote before the planning board took a look at the proposal.
“I have been asking planning to work with us for over a year with the affordable housing task force: Let the people speak on this.”
Council President Joyce Watterman said the public could speak on it when it comes back for second reading.
“The administration wants to send it to the planning board to make sure we have the accurate and legal language. If we have to make substantial changes, we’ll be back to square one anyway. We’re just looking to make sure we’re getting it right,” Business Administrator John Metro said.
“Can we have a commitment that within two weeks, we can have a first reading of this possibly?” Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise asked.
Metro said they’d have to check the dates the planning board is meeting before making that commitment.
“It’s a great idea. Bringing affordability to that area is a priority,” DeGise added.
“The planning board has been notified for a year now,” Boggiano argued.
Baker replied that there were some instances were the city was “dinged” for not complying with the planning board referral policy and he didn’t want to see that happen again.
He also noted there is a 45-day requirement for the planning board to move resolutions.
Upon hearing that, Ward E Councilman James Solomon requested a resolution be added to the agenda so they could refer it to the planning board immediately, which Boggiano supported.
“Once you draft it, we have to add it, and then we have to vote to add it,” City Clerk Sean Gallagher explained.
“It should be way shorter than 45 days. But I want this taken care of, and I want this done,” Boggiano declared.
Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh also said he was on board with the idea.
“You have tens of thousands of units coming to Journal Square without any affordable or very few affordable at the moment. This would create a requirement that future developments have them,” Solomon added.
The Jersey City Council unanimously passed a motion to withdraw the ordinance 8-0. Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera was absent.
A resolution referring it to the planning board was added to the agenda in the middle of the meeting in a vote 7-0, with Rivera absent and Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley having stepped out of the room momentarily.
Journal Square Community Association Affordable Housing Task Force Chair Michael Ehrmann thanked Boggiano, his staff, the council, and the mayor for their work on affordable housing during the public comment period.
“The city has a dilemma that it needs to look at. They have a major initiative called the IZO. They have a major commitment to Journal Square for its development process. The two are not meeting very well right now because affordable housing isn’t being provided. We have a remedy for that,” he said.
“I hope your review won’t sound like your comments, which are finding ways to say no. The Journal Square expects that review to be finding ways to say yes to carry out what we’re doing.”
The council then passed the resolution referring the Journal Square affordable housing ordinance to the planning board unanimously (8-0).