NY Red Bulls Morris Township training site trial moves forward
The state’s public entity that enforces affordable housing rules has filed a new lawsuit in its lawsuit against Morris Township over the rezoning of land for the future New York Red Bulls training site.
The Fair Share Housing Center filed a motion asking the State Superior Court of Morris County to order the township to recalculate its “realistic development potential” or housing obligation based on available land. The township must recalculate its development potential and include land that has been rezoned for the training site, according to the center.
“The Mount Laurel Doctrine exists precisely to prevent this kind of exclusionary zoning,” said Rachel Lokken, attorney for the Fair Share Housing Center. “The fact that Morris Township did not consider newly vacant lots for affordable housing before rezoning them is illegal.”
The center filed its lawsuit against the township this month, challenging its decision to rezone the land to build the New York Red Bulls training complex.
The Major League Soccer team announced plans for their new privately funded training facility last year. It is about 8km from the Red Bulls facility on Melanie Lane in Hanover Township, where they have been based since 2013.
Prior to the lawsuit, construction of the new complex, which was to be on part of the former Honeywell International campus off Columbia Road, was scheduled to begin this year and be completed by 2024. The plan for the 80-acre site provides eight outdoor soccer fields as well as offices.
Under the Mount Laurel Doctrine, all New Jersey municipalities are required to provide their fair share of area affordable housing. Affordable housing obligations are sometimes adjusted based on a city’s realistic development potential, which includes an assessment of empty land available for development.
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In the lawsuit, the nonprofit said the township did not consider the land for affordable housing before rezoning it for the soccer team’s practice site. The motion also calls for a “scarce resource limitation,” which prohibits any substantial new construction, to prevent the township from dissipating land resources in the meantime.
“Particularly during Black History Month, it is important that we recognize how exclusionary zoning, both historically and today, denies low-income people and people of color opportunities to housing in some cities,” Lokken said.
In December 2021, Morris Township officials rezoned the 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 complaint.
At the time of the settlement with the township, the Honeywell site was excluded from the vacant land adjustment because it was not vacant at the time. Now that it is vacant and available for development, the affordable housing obligation for Morris Township “must be recalculated as the realistic development potential of the town has changed,” the lawsuit said.
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The township also received a significant adjustment to its obligation because it claimed at the time that it did not have enough land, thus only fully meeting about half of its obligation, reads the pursuit.
“At its heart, Mount Laurel is about opportunity and that all New Jerseyans, regardless of income or race, should have the right to choose where they want to live,” Lokken said.
The township’s settlement agreement with the center shows that its obligation has been reduced from 1,095 units to 767 units, or 30%.
Fair Share Housing Center has settled over 300 cases in New Jersey under the Mount Laurel Doctrine. He estimates that more than 70,000 affordable units have been built through the Doctrine, with about 50,000 more in development statewide.
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.
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