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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Affordable Housing Plans

THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Eastern Pacific Development president Hans Lampart gave a presentation for a proposed 70-unit, 100 percent affordable senior housing complex at 151 S. Washington St.

HAMMONTON—Representatives from Eastern Pacific Development gave a presentation at the January 23 meeting of town council regarding a proposed development to provide affordable senior housing on the town-owned Lot 1 of Block 2608, also known as 151 S. Washington St.

Town solicitor Michael Malinsky introduced the representatives.

“As part of our Fair Share Housing settlement agreement, Lot 1 of Block 2608 was part of several lots that were deemed an area in need of redevelopment for affordable housing purposes. I believe Eastern Pacific Development is here tonight to make a presentation to council to explain what they’d like to do on Lot 1 of Block 2608,” Malinsky said.

Attorney CherylLynn Walters, counsel for Eastern Pacific Development, spoke while representatives handed proposal packets to members of council.

“The court-approved settlement contemplated that the site would be set aside for an inclusionary housing project with a 15 percent affordable housing set-aside at a density of not less than 22 units per acre. This project, as the concept will be presented to you this evening by the president of Eastern Pacific, contemplates a 70-unit, 100 percent affordable senior living project,” Walters said.

Walters said the project would be age-restricted for seniors only.

“You’re actually getting a benefit in the count toward your affordable housing obligation through the project. Not just that; it takes a municipally owned property that’s currently tax exempt and puts it back on your tax records—and is no impact to your school district, because it’s affordable housing age-restricted, no school-age children from the project,” Walters said.

Eastern Pacific Development president Hans Lampart said the company currently has 10 facilities throughout South Jersey, including ones in Vineland, Buena and Winslow Twp., all of which are 100 percent full.

“We have a little over 800 residents scattered throughout those facilities,” Lampart said.

Lampart described the project.

“It’s about two-and-a-half acres—maybe three—and the building would be U-shaped,” Lampart said.

Lampart said that the proposed building would match the design of their project in Winslow Twp.

“These will be mostly one-bedroom apartments; they range right around 650 square feet. The rent will probably be around $800—again, this is probably three years out, so somewhere around $850 for a one-bedroom apartment. There’s sufficient parking on the site,” Lampart said.

Lampart said that such projects are financed by federal tax credits that are allocated by the state of New Jersey which he then sells to investors. Councilman Edward Wuillermin inquired further.

“Are you proposing to buy four percent credits, or the nine percent?” Wuillermin said.

Lampart replied that the intent is to purchase the nine percent credits; Wuillermin asked what the qualifications for those credits are, and Lampart answered.

“The state of New Jersey has an annual what they call a qualified allocation plan, where they outline what kind of projects that they’re looking to fund. Every three or four years they change this plan somewhat,” Lampart said.

According to Lampart, there is usually enough allocation to fund “about 15 to 17 projects every year.”

“It’s essentially what I would call a beauty contest of points that you receive either for location or what you’re providing within the facility, so then you get ranked against other projects,” Lampart said.

Wuillermin asked for clarification.

“What distinguishes between the four percent tax credits and the nine percent tax credits?” Wuillermin said.

Lampart said that there is a significant funding gap with four percent credits. According to Lampart, though the four percent credit can be applied for at any time, it requires “significant hard debt.”

“To do that in this area would require a significant amount of soft funds—soft money—from either DCA [Division of Community Affairs] or Balanced Housing, or HMFA [Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency] in order to grab those funds in order to make up the difference between the nine percent and a four percent,” Lampart said.

Lampart said that a nine percent credit is “essentially 90 percent.”

“It’s a 10-year credit; if you have 100 percent of the cost of the building, you get a credit for 90 percent of that. The balance of the funding is generally the permanent debt that the project can support,” Lampart said.

Wuillermin asked what the project would require from the municipality, and Lampart responded.

“The first step is establishing a redevelopment area, which I believe that’s been done, then a redevelopment plan,” Lampart said.

Malinsky commented.

“We have not done that yet,” Malinsky said.

Lampart said that, after the development plan, the next step would be to designate Eastern Pacific as the redeveloper for the site.

“Then we would submit site plans, go through the regular process of site plan approval based on the redevelopment plan that was adopted. Then, we would apply for funding, so this is probably a two-year cycle from standing here today to being able to apply for financing from New Jersey Housing and Mortgage,” Lampart said.

Wuillermin inquired about the requirements.

“I would imagine that one of the requirements, in order to score effectively in terms of your point total, would be some commitment to a PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] from the municipality?” Wuillermin said.

Lampart responded in the affirmative, and Wuillermin continued.

“So these would not be really taxed in a sense of a traditional tax?” Wuillermin said.

Lampart provided clarification.

“It would be a PILOT that would be a percentage of the gross rental income that flows directly to the municipality,” Lampart said.

Wuillermin asked how long the bonds would last, and Malinsky replied.

“A long-term financial agreement is what they’d be looking for,” Malinsky said.

Wuillermin continued.

“Thirty years?” he said.

Both Malinsky and Lampart answered in the affirmative.

Walters said that it would not be a bond, and Wuillermin responded.

“Usually that runs concurrent with something from the Balanced Housing Act, where you might have a revenue source from there,” Wuillermin said.

Mayor Stephen DiDonato thanked Walters and Lampart for their time.

“As you know, part of our Fair Share Housing commitment is we have to listen to different proposals. There’s another one—I believe—we’re having in March, and we’ll have to then pick a developer and go from there,” DiDonato said.

In other business, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel gave a presentation for two officers who received a Recognition of Excellence Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for “outstanding dedication and support for your efforts in deterring impaired driving on New Jersey roads and highways during 2021.”

The first officer was Officer Kyle Ambrozaitis, the town’s certified traffic officer, whom Friel noted had more than 19 of the town’s total Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) citations in 2021.

“He has taken the bull by the horns to run a lot of our traffic-related items, our speed sign and make sure that all things are carried out the way that they should be. He also drives a vehicle that’s equipped with an automatic license plate reader to make sure that vehicles that are traveling through our town, if they are suspended, if they are unregistered or they’re wanted, all that information is quick and readily at his disposal to make sure that we’re enforcing our laws,” Friel said.

Friel called Ambrozaitis to the podium and presented him with the award and a challenge coin.

“I am very proud to say that you do a fine job in keeping our community roadways safe. Every week when I come in, you’re definitely one of the officers that I’m reading with a DWI arrest, and the community appreciates all that you do in keeping everyone safe,” Friel said.

The second officer was Officer Travis Hoffman. Friel said that Hoffman “He certainly pulls the lion’s share of the amount of DWIs that we have.”

“He definitely is a very dedicated and persistent person who digs into every motor vehicle stop that he has to find that there are signs of impairment. Matter of fact, as much so as he has stepped up to apply for being a drug recognition expert [DRE], and—if all goes well—in April he will attending this year’s drug recognition expert training. Then, as a community, we will have a DRE available on-hand frequently,” Friel said.

Friel then presented Hoffman with his award and challenge coin.

“Greatly appreciated, all that you do to keep our community safe. Again, a week doesn’t go by that I don’t see your name in the arrest reports in finding impaired drivers, and I hope you keep up the great work—and wish you very much luck and skill as I’m sure that you are going to undertake the effort of the DRE,” Friel said.

DiDonato expressed gratitude and well-wishes for both officers.

“God bless both of you, and Godspeed. Thank you. Keep up the good work; very proud of you gentlemen,” DiDonato said.

Council also held the introduction of Ordinance No. 002-2023 – Fixing Salaries of Police Officers and Sergeants.

According to the language of the ordinance, individuals employed as police officers and sergeants “shall be paid pursuant to the contract.”

“The salaries, clothing allowance, education stipend, health insurance buyout, cell phone reimbursement, sick time, vacation time, personal time, comp time, holidays and overtime have all been set for the calendar years Starting January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2025,” the ordinance reads.

According to the ordinance, the minimum salary for a police officer shall be $45,000, and the maximum shall be $115,000. The minimum salary for a sergeant shall be $113,000, and the maximum shall be $125,000.

The ordinance passed introduction.

Business Administrator Frank Zuber presented the following items under the town clerk’s report:

• Accept Harry Wozunk and Russell Smith as regular members of Fire Company No. 2. Police background check completed, approved at fire meeting on January 11.

• Approve three-month leave of absence for Mildred Collazo effective January 17.

• Approval to hire David Diaz as a Full-time Temporary Police Officer effective February 1.

• Accept retirement of James Pinto from his position of Police Officer—Corporal with the Hammonton Police Department effective March 31

• Approval of changes to police chief’s contract, retroactive to January 1

• Send letter of intent to purchase new fire truck for the fire department.

In an email to The Gazette on January 26, Zuber provided a copy of the contract as mentioned in Item No. 5. Changes to the contract include an annual uniform allowance of $750, the issuance of a cell phone and unmarked police vehicle and updated salary increments as follows: 2023 base, $163,600 (retroactive to January 1); 2024 base, 167,690; 2025 base, $171,882.25.

The email also provided details about Item No. 6.

“The Fire Truck is a 100 Foot Rear Mount Tower Ladder. This is replacing the current one that is approximately 24 years old,” the email read.

The items were approved.

In other business, Malinsky had two action items under his report.

“The first, if council’s so inclined, I need a motion to approve Judge [Frank] Raso’s 2023 contract, which will run until December 31, 2023, per the terms discussed in closed,” Malinksy said.

Councilman Thomas Gribbin made the motion and commented further.

“This is being recommended—the reappointment of Judge Raso—by the members of the Administration Committee. We reviewed several RFQs [requests for qualifications] and believe that Judge Raso is the best person for the job,” Gribbin said.

Councilman Jonathan Oliva seconded the motion, which passed unanimously. Malinsky continued.

“The second action item, if council’s so inclined, I need a motion to approve Michelle Verno as the conflict judge for the Hammonton Joint Municipal Court, subject to Assignment Judge Michael Blee’s approval,” Malinsky said.

Gribbin made the motion—which Oliva seconded—and explained the item.

“The purpose of having Judge Verno—or having a conflict judge—would be for times in which Judge Raso was unable to hold court that day or for any other conflicts. This will make sure that we are completely covered at times when court is scheduled,” Gribbin said.

Malinsky commented further.

“This will help the efficiency of the court, to make sure there’s no issues,” Malinsky said.

The motion passed unanimously.

Council also heard a presentation by Cassie Iacovelli and Tracy Carr on behalf of Hammonton Heart and Soul.

Iacovelli said that the Heart and Soul community summit was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. on January 30 at Hammonton High School.

“For the past two years, we have spent—the Heart and Soul team—listening to stories from people from all sectors of the town who have shared what they loved and what they cherished about this town,” Iacovelli said.

Iacovelli said that the data were collected—including more than 260 personal interviews, as well as information collected at various civic events—and translated into a database. Once the information was collected, Iacovelli said, 10 recurring themes developed.

All this information, Iacovelli said, was distributed to 17 volunteers.

“We asked them to create draft statements that really defined what we heard the town said to us in each of those different themes. We feel that these statements, once they’re finalized, will serve as guidance to our town when hopefully making decisions,” Iacovelli said.

Iacovelli said that the purpose for the summit is to have the community look at the draft statements and provide feedback.

“Once we finalize these statements, we will then develop some action plans that will strive to achieve to make this a better Hammonton,” Iacovelli said.

Eventually, Iacovelli said, Hammonton Heart and Soul hopes to raise $50,000 which will be matched with another $50,000 by the Community Foundation of South Jersey. Iacovelli said that with Heart and Soul, there is a minimum of $25,000; however midway through the process, Hammonton Heart and Soul was informed that, if they raised the amount to $50,000, the funds would be matched.

“When you have somebody like Johanna Johnson and Jim Donio on your advisory board, the minute you say $50,000—no longer are we talking about $25,000 to raise—we will be raising $50,000. When we aim to raise that money, we will have a Hammonton community fund. This will be an endowment and not to be spent at a one-time point, but continually maintained to help fund the priorities set forth in this process,” Iacovelli said.

Iacovelli extended a personal invitation to members of council to attend the summit on January 30.

“We hope that this process will not only allow us to have funds to maybe turn into the aspirations that people want for this town, but also allow the elected leaders to draw from this feedback when you’re making decisions financially,” Iacovelli said.

While presenting the report from the Business and Industry Committee, Wuillermin said that the Hammonton Revitalization Corporation is still looking for an executive director to replace Iacovelli.

“I don’t know how far along they are in that process, but I do think that they are still considering applications for that position, if anybody is interested,” Wuillermin said.

Wuillermin detailed several business changes in the downtown.

“Gateway Mortgage has relocated from 108 Bellevue Ave. to 20 S. Second Street. Blank Paige Boutique is a new business—it’s a women’s boutique—and it will be located at 8 S. Second St.; she plans to open in March. Finally, Forged Soul Fitness is relocating from 281 Bellevue Ave. to 5 N. Egg Harbor Rd.,” Wuillermin said.

Wuillermin also spoke about the recent façade refurbishment of El Nuevo Mariacho Loco, located at 101 Bellevue Ave.

“Roberto and Maria Diaz, who own the restaurant—and now also own the building—have put a considerable effort, a considerable amount of that with sweat equity and their own funding.

They have gotten a modest amount of funding from Neighborhood Preservation Project, and they have gotten some consulting help from MainStreet project, along with New Jersey Manufacturing’s design fund,” Wuillermin said.

Wuillermin said that, with that funding, they were able to hire Margaret Westfield, whom Wuillermin described as a historic preservation consultant.

“Everything that they did there on the façade, including the colors and the awnings, were all through the guidance of Miss Westfield. Those are very historic colors, and they comport to what would be apropos for buildings and colors of that period,” Wuillermin said.

Under the Education Committee report, Councilwoman Renee Rodio gave updates from the January 19 meeting of the Hammonton Board of Education.

“Steve Salvo has donated a significant amount of money and developed a scholarship foundation. They will be giving out a substantial amount of money this year to our seniors, and ongoing” Rodio said.

Rodio also detailed several contract approvals at the meeting.

“They approved: Triad as grant consultants for the district; Taylor Design Group as landscape architect for the district,” Rodio said.

Before the meeting, more than two dozen residents of Traditions at Blueberry Ridge were standing outside of council chambers and town hall, holding signs asking council to repair their drainage basin.

“We’re here to show strength that we’re serious on the fact that we’re following through on this,” Traditions at Blueberry Ridge president Walter Kelley said.

Kelley said that Traditions at Blueberry Ridge was scheduled to be in a mediation with Judge Michael Blee on February 3.

During the meeting, Councilman Sam Rodio updated council about a proposal that came out of the January 17 meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission. At that meeting, Scott Taylor of Taylor Design Group presented concept designs for signage at the Boyer Avenue Athletic Fields. At that meeting, a name change was also proposed for the facility.

“We’re going to go to Moss Mill Park,” Sam Rodio said.

Sam Rodio said that the concepts were available on the town’s website.

“The entrance to the park is on Moss Mill Road. It’s not on Boyer Avenue,” Rodio said.

Sam Rodio addressed the signage.

“The entire board, from our chairman on down, we had a unanimous vote. I’m bringing it to the floor, here, now, hoping that we can get a vote here and move forward with this,” he said.

DiDonato asked if a quote for the signs had been submitted; Sam Rodio said that one had not.

“Get Scott to get a price on the signage, and let’s get it all together,” DiDonato said.

Sam Rodio agreed to do so.

“Next month, we can bring that to a vote, then,” he said.

Later in the meeting, DiDonato revisited the name change.

“I think we ought to make a motion—before we get the price of these signs—to change the name,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato then asked for a motion to officially change the name to Moss Mill Park. Wuillermin asked for clarification.

“Are we changing the name of Boyer Avenue Land Application Site to Moss Mill Park?” Wuillermin said.

Councilman Steven Furgione replied in the negative.

“It’s Moss Mill Park. The Boyer Avenue Land App is the Boyer Avenue Land App,” Furgione said.

Sam Rodio made the motion to change the name, which Furgione seconded. The motion carried unanimously.

The next meeting of town council will be held at 7 p.m. on February 27.


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