Fair Share Housing is suing Morris Twp. at the NY Red Bulls training site

New Jersey’s only public entity enforcing affordable housing rules is challenging the Township of Morris’ decision to rezone land to build the New York Red Bulls practice complex.

Last October, the Red Bulls announced plans for a new privately funded academy facility on a section of the former Honeywell International campus. On Thursday, the Fair Share Housing Center filed a lawsuit against the township, alleging it had not considered the land for affordable housing before rezoning it for the football team.

“Morris Township is constitutionally obligated to disclose information about any newly available vacant land so that its Affordable Housing Obligation can be recalculated accordingly and additional affordable housing units built,” said Fair Share Housing Center attorney Rachel Lokken.

A general view of the former Honeywell site near Columbia Road in Morris Township, where the Red Bulls plan to build their new training facility.

According to the Mount Laurel Doctrine, all cities in New Jersey are required to provide their fair share of affordable housing in the area. Affordable housing obligations are sometimes adjusted based on a city’s realistic development potential, which includes an assessment of empty land available for development.

Last year, Morris Township officials rezoned 81 acres of the former Honeywell International campus without reviewing or recalculating the vacant land adjustment that was awarded to the township as part of its affordable housing settlement with Fair Share. Housing Center in 2017, according to the lawsuit filed in Morris Superior Court.

The center also said Morris Township’s affordable housing needs had received “a significant adjustment” because, at the time of establishing their obligations, it did not have enough land. This resulted in the township only covering about half of its obligation, according to the FSHC.

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The township’s settlement agreement with the FSHC shows that its obligation was reduced from 1095 units to 767 units, or 30%, due to the lack of vacant land at the time of settlement following the township’s request for an adjustment of vacant land.

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“The Township of Morris’ attempt to circumvent its obligation by rezoning limited vacant land for other purposes is exactly the type of exclusionary zoning that the Mount Laurel Doctrine protects against,” Lokken said.

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At the time of the settlement with Morris Township, the Honeywell land was “excluded from the vacant land adjustment” because it was not vacant at the time, the FSHC said. Now that it is vacant and available for development, the Affordable Housing Obligation for Morris Township must be recalculated as the town’s realistic development potential has changed, according to FSHC.

A view from Route 53 of the complex of buildings on Route 53 currently under construction as the new global headquarters of Honeywell Corp.  who is moving from Morris Township.

The township has not received a complaint, said Tim Quinn, the township administrator. The township attorney, planner, engineer and administrator will review the complaint once it is received, Quinn said.

Honeywell, which makes basic systems for military aircraft, space satellites and automated office buildings, moved its global headquarters from Morris Township to Route 53 in Morris Plains, then moved most senior management to Charlotte, in North Carolina in 2018. More than 200 homes have been built on a portion of the 146-acre property.

Construction of the new training complex is expected to begin in 2022 and be completed by 2024. The 81-acre site will include eight full-size outdoor soccer fields, as well as office space. The new facility would house the Red Bulls first team, as well as the USL’s Red Bulls II, as well as the academy and other youth programs.

Jessie Gomez is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com and NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jessiereport

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