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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Affordable housing proposed

THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Christopher J. Brown gave a presentation on behalf of Fieldstone Associates LP regarding redevelopment of town-owned land on Washington and 11th Streets. Monday, March 27, 7:38 p.m.

HAMMONTON—At the March 27 meeting of town council, representatives from Fieldstone Associates, LP presented a redevelopment proposal for town-owned land.

Former New Jersey Assemblyman Christopher J. Brown, the title officer and CEO of ClosePoint USA—according to his biography on that company’s website—opened the presentation.

“I have the pleasure of introducing a concept and a plan for the proposal of a redevelopment area that the town council has set aside, and is commonly known—the property—as the Washington Gardens, which is off Washington Street and, I think, it’s 11th Avenue as well,” Brown said.

Brown said that the proposal is different than a typical one that involves the purchase of property in a public/private partnership.

“Our group, Fieldstone, owns a property off of Fourth and Fairview Avenue. That property consists of two lots, 47 and 50; it’s about 7.5 acres in size. We had previously came before council—actually, the planning board—and obtained approval for 14 single-family house development there,” Brown said.

Brown said that the property is not yet developed.

“We’ve kind of land-banked it, based on all the economic situation that’s been going on. Also, our attention has also changed over to apartments,” Brown said.

Brown said that, as a former elected official, he looks at the proposal “from two lenses.”

“One—from the public official side—does it make sense for the town? Does what I’m about to propose to you make sense from a public policy standpoint? Two, does it make sense from an economic standpoint, and three, how does it make the town look?” Brown said.

Brown said that Fieldstone Associates was proposing a land swap.

“We’re willing to give you 7.5 acres of land that, in my estimation, is worth about $996,000 in exchange for the Washington Garden property and become the appointed redeveloper for the town of Hammonton,” Brown said.

Brown said that, if 14 single-family homes were built on their property, there would be a negative fiscal impact to the school district of approximately $226,000.

“Your property is probably worth about $725,000, in that neighborhood, based upon the projection of the project that we’re looking to build in your town,” Brown said.

Brown said that if the town agreed to the swap, it would receive an “unrestricted, prime piece of real estate that you could do anything you want with.”

“You get to preserve land, and you also get to centralize an economic development project in the areas that you want to develop,” Brown said.

As part of the proposal, Brown said, Fieldstone Associates LP would like to do what he called a financial package involving a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

“The PILOT is great for towns right now. Of course, PILOTS are coming under attack by certain public officials who want to change the PILOT law, where they don’t think it’s fair that a portion of the revenue that comes from a PILOT goes to the school,” Brown said.

Brown said that 95 percent of the revenue from a PILOT goes to the town.

“That’s a huge fiscal impact, and it creates an amazing surplus within your budgets,” Brown said.

Brown said that Fieldstone Associates LP was recently appointed as the redeveloper for Pemberton Twp. with 546 units in that community.

“This is not our first time doing this,” Brown said.

Brown spoke about a recent project in Haddon Twp.

“The economic stimulus on that town is absolutely amazing, and what it looks like—what it was 13 years ago to what it is today—is just amazing. The product is so up to date and so available to the current what the customer wants,” Brown said.

That project also offers several amenities, Brown said, including its clubhouse.

“We’re not proposing a clubhouse at this location, but the amenities are amazing,” Brown said.

Brown also spoke about another Fieldstone Associates LP project in Marlton, with 276 units.

“Less than 10 percent of the residents are school-age children, so the impact to your school is minimized. It almost becomes like a ratable for the town; in fact, it is, you know, if you look at it from that lens,” Brown said.

Councilman Thomas Gribbin inquired about the units Haddon Twp. property. Fieldstone Associates LP partner Arthur Coursini responded.

“We have 10 percent COAH [Council On Affordable Housing]—affordable—they’re a little bit smaller; they run 600 to 1,000 square feet. The market-rate units, we have one, two and three-bedroom units. The one-bedrooms run about 750; the two bedrooms, about 1,100 square feet, and the three-bedrooms are about 1,300 square feet,” Gribbin said.

Gribbin inquired as to a rough estimate for the rent for those units, and Coursini answered.

“One-bedrooms there are probably now just over $2,000 market-rate, and three-bedrooms are about $3,200 or $3,300,” Coursini said.

Gribbin asked if the percentage of school-aged children was consistent in both the Marlton and the Haddon Twp. properties, and if it would reasonably be consistent in Hammonton. Coursini replied.

“You’re going to attract some school-age children with the COAH units because you’re mandated to do one, two and threes. In Hammonton here, we’re not proposing to do any three-bedroom markets; it’ll just be a couple three-bedroom COAH units,” Coursini said.

Coursini said that he expects units will be rented by families with children.

“But, by the time they hit four or five or six, they’re looking for something else. There’s really no amenities for children in any of these properties,” Coursini said.

Brown then turned the presentation over to architect Mark Trimbath—of VLBJR Architects, Inc.—the planner for the project.

“The property at the intersection of Washington Street and 11th Street is a 2.5 acre lot. The proposed development plan for this parcel is a four-story, multifamily, transit-oriented development,” Trimbath said.

Trimbath said that the proposed plan includes three levels of apartments over a ground level of parking. The project, Trimbath said, consists of 120 market-rate rental units and 30 affordable-rate rental units, for a total COAH set-aside of 20 percent.

“The design maximizes ground-level parking and provides dual ingress and egress access points from both Washington Street and 11th Street. The proposed 264 onsite parking spaces provide for 1.5 spaces for each one-bedroom unit and two spaces for each two and three-bedroom unit,” Trimbath said.

Trimbath said that it was the opinion of the developers that the Residential Site Improvement Standards (RSIS) parking requirement can be reduced, due to the development’s proximity to NJ Transit’s Hammonton Station “The second floor consists of 8,000 square feet of interior amenity area and includes spaces for onsite building management and leasing. This floor also contains 9,000 square feet of exterior amenity deck and will provide multiple outdoor, passive recreation areas for use by the building tenants,” Trimbath said.

The remainder of the second floor, along with the third and fourth floors, will contain various multifamily apartment units and private storage areas, Trimbath said.

“The residential apartment units vary in size from one bedroom, one bedroom plus a den, two bedroom and three-bedroom units,” Trimbath said.

Trimbath described typical amenities for such a building.

“The interior spaces contain a club room, fitness center, work-from-home pods—so tenants can get out of their units, come down to the community area and telecommute or tele remote work,” Trimbath said.

The outdoor amenity areas, Trimbath said, typically have grills, fire pits, bocce courts, outdoor yoga areas and a pool.

“We’re not proposing a pool here,” Trimbath said.

Councilman Edward Wuillermin inquired about financing the project with tax credits; Coursini said that Fieldstone Associates LP would not be seeking such credits.

“Typically, on these types of projects where you have an affordable component, you need the PILOT to help pay for those units,” Coursini said.

Coursini noted that the differences between COAH units and the market-rate units are “very minimal.”

“They might be a little bit smaller. We don’t use granite or marble tops in the kitchens; we might use laminate—but, other than that, they’re pretty similar, and they may be just 10 percent smaller,” Coursini said.

Wuillermin asked about the company’s definition of “affordable.”

“Do you have a definition of a certain percentage of median income that you use?” Wuillermin said.

Coursini responded.

“You have to provide, by law, a Very Low, Low and then there’s three stages of Moderate,” Coursini said.

Wuillermin inquired about the distribution of the COAH units relating to the differnet income levels, and Coursini replied.

“They’re distributed throughout the building; they’re not put in one specific area. Walking through the hallways, you wouldn’t know which doorway was a COAH unit and which doorway was a market unit,” Coursini said.

Wuillermin inquired further.

“When you identify the COAH units, are they a distribution of Low, Very Low and Moderate?” Wuillermin said.

Coursini replied.

“Only the tenants that live there would know that; nobody else would know,” Coursini said.

Town solicitor Michael Malinsky commented further.

“Legally, they have to distribute them. I can get you the percentages in the statute,” Malinsky said.

According to the Uniform Housing Affordability Controls, N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.3, at least 50 percent of the restricted units within each bedroom distribution shall be low-income units and the remainder may be moderate income units.

“Affordable developments that are not age-restricted shall be structured in conjunction with realistic market demands such that: 1. The combined number of efficiency and one-bedroom units is no greater than 20 percent of the total low-and moderate-income units; 2. At least 30 percent of all low- and moderate-income units are two bedroom units; At least 20 percent of all low- and moderate-income units are three bedroom units; and 4. The remainder, if any, may be allocated at the discretion of the developer,” the statute reads.

During discussion, Coursini discussed rental rates at the Haddon Twp. property.

“A market-rate one-bedroom rents for a little bit over $2,000; the Very Low unit rents for $276. That’s all mandated by the area that you’re in and by law,” Coursini said.

Mayor Stephen DiDonato asked what the rent would be on the market-rate units in Hammonton, and Coursini responded.

“I would estimate here, for a one-bedroom market, you’d probably be $1,600 to $1,800 here, I would think. For a two-bedroom, you’re probably looking at maybe $2,000 to $2,300. These’ll be all top-of-the-line appliances, top-of-the-line kitchen fit-outs. The amenities will be very, very well done,” Coursini said.

Wuillermin inquired further.

“What is the overall density of this project? How many units per acre?” Wuillermin said.

Councilman Jonathan Oliva commented.

“It’s what, 2.5 acres? There’s 150 units by 2.5 acres, so it’s what, 60?” Oliva said.

Coursini confirmed that assertion.

“About 60 per acre,” Coursini said.

DiDonato asked about Brown’s earlier proposal.

“Is there any option not to do, basically, a land swap? Would you consider an outright purchase of this property?” DiDonato said.

Coursini answered in the affirmative.

“We would, yeah, if needed,” Coursini said.

In other business, during the report from the Water and Sewer Committee, Councilman Steven Furgione said that he and Wuillermin have been working on a side project.

“What we’d like to do is bring in Dr. Raymond Ferrara from Kleinfelder; Kleinfelder is a consultant we’ve used heavily in the past. Prior to that, he was with Omni. He’s done consulting work for us at both the water and sewer plant,” Furgione said.

Furgione said that there were several objectives to accomplish.

“What we’d like to do is bring them in and do a public presentation in either April or May to give us an analysis of our water treatment systems on each of our wells, to go from 2020 to present day, go over all the test results submitted to DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] and what those ramifications are, and also do an analysis of the South Jersey Gas remediation project as it relates to our drinking wells,” Furgione said.

Furgione said that he received a quote from Ferrara for a price not to exceed $8,000, and made a motion to approve the expenditure. Wuillermin seconded the motion.

Gribbin inquired further.

“What would the ultimate result be of the report that they generate? I mean, what action might we take at the conclusion?” Gribbin said.

Furgione said that there would be no action.

“You’ll just get a better understanding of where we are as how we’re treating potable water, but, in terms of action, none,” Furgione said.

Furgione said that the final arbiter in water quality was the DEP.

“Every sample we submit to them, we have to be in compliance. This will be a professional to come up here and talk about a history of our treatments on each well and where we stand with the DEP in relation to tests,” Furgione said.

Furgione said that they would be asking for recommendations for the future.

“Moving forward, we’re going to need to deal with the ongoing changes, both nationally with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] as well as on the state level,” Furgione said.

Wuillermin commented further.

“To augment that, I think what we want is a snapshot, because there’s been some questions asked and raised about the safety of our water system, and we have been—I think—rather diligent and transparent in regard to all the issues that the town has faced with that,” Wuillermin said.

Wuillermin continued.

“I think we need to have somebody take a look at that who is well-qualified, whose credentials are impeccable and give us an assessment as to where we stand—not going forward, because there’s some issues that we know are in flux, and there’s going to be other challenges that we’re going to have to meet and address, but to this point, historically, in a chronological sequence,” Wuillermin said.

Wuillermin said that there are challenges ahead that have to be addressed.

“We all know that—but those challenges are unfolding at the present time, and they’re not going to be easy lifts, but all the challenges to date that we have had and have been presented in terms of the water quality in our public water supply system, we’ve addressed, and I think that needs to be made very clear through this analysis,” Wuillermin said.

The motion passed unanimously.

Town Engineer Mark Herrmann, of Adams, Rehmann and Heggan Associates (ARH) had several action items in his report.

The first related to the work on Vine Street and School House Lane. Herrmann said that the project is complete.

“We finalized all of our outstanding claims, and we did our final quantity review. In addition to submitting a payment request for the contract, we submitted Change Order 4, which is a settlement for all the claims to date, and the final quantity measurements,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that the change order is an increase in the amount of $66,957.70.

Furgione made a motion to approve the change order; Gribbin seconded the motion, and Furgione inquired further.

“This takes into account the last of couple items we had—the loose ends—to tie up, plus all our quantity adjustments?” Furgione said.

Herrmann answered in the affirmative, and Furgione continued, noting that the final price is approximately $180,000 over the base bid price. Of that, Furgione said, there is approximately $80,000 that is school-related.

“We’ll dive into those next,” Furgione said.

Councilman Sam Rodio concurred.

“We’re going to go there next, the Hammonton School Board,” Rodio said.

Furgione replied.

“Actually, it would be sent to St. Joe Academy, and then they’re going to have to figure it out from there,” Furgione said.

Rodio responded.

“They’ll be going to the Hammonton School Board; that’s who owns it,” Rodio said.

DiDonato commented further.

“I think the school will help us out on this $80,000, because think about it: they got paid—right around 2000—they got paid $1 million for that building, and then it reverted back to them for nothing,” DiDonato said.

Rodio offered a correction.

“It was a dollar,” Rodio said.

DiDonato continued.

“They got it back for a dollar, so I think they would work with us in this,” DiDonato said.

Wuillermin inquired about the combined projects on Vine Street/School House Lane and Valley Avenue.

“Are we still—even with the overage on the contract—under what we bonded?” Wuillermin said.

Herrmann replied in the negative.

“If I’m not mistaken, I think we bonded our services as well, so I think if you add the construction costs plus the inspection costs, I believe it was over; I don’t know the exact number,” Herrmann said.

Business Administrator Frank Zuber concurred.

“It was over; I don’t know the exact number,” Zuber said.

Wuillermin replied.

“I thought otherwise,” Wuillermin said.

The motion passed unanimously.

The second action item related to Change Order No. 3 for the roadwork on Valley Avenue.

“The change order itself is a decrease in the amount of $73,379.35, which is presented to you for your consideration and approval. What that means is, the overall contract value, from start to finish, is actually a decrease of $28,968.15, so we came under on that contract,” Herrmann said.

Gribbin made a motion to approve the change order, which Furgione seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.

The next item in Herrmann’s report related to the site of the former Mazza Muffler at 104 S. Egg Harbor Rd.

“In the grant—the town received about $152,000 in funding, of which $88,000 has been earmarked for the demolition—but once the building is down, there are tasks we need to do that we couldn’t do when the building was up, and that is investigating limits of any contamination by old, underground storage tanks, water testing of that nature,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that the proposal for environmental investigation, oversight and testing is in the amount of $45,000.

“All that money is from the grant, and that was earmarked in the grant when we asked for it last year,” Herrmann said.

Councilwoman Renee Rodio made the motion to approve the amount, which Oliva seconded.

Gribbin asked how much grant funding would be left after this amount was approved, and Herrmann answered.

“There’s probably another $17,000 or so left that I think if we have any issues when we demo the building, or other things we may find, there’s still money there to do other things,” Herrmann said.

Gribbin continued.

“If there were remediation issues, would that be covered by the prior owner?” Gribbin said.

Malinsky responded.

“If there’s contamination on site, then the prior property owner would be responsible, just by purposes of being the owner under the Spill Act,” Malinsky said.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Herrmann then discussed the berm project at the Boyer Avenue land application facility.

“Last year, we did a plan set to construct a drainage diversion berm along the northeast corner of the property. It would be using soil that’s on the site to help build a two-foot high berm to help prevent water from running off the land application field,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that the plans were submitted to the Pinelands Commission, who deemed it incomplete.

“They want a full application,” Herrmann said.

Herrmann said that Public Works Manager Robert Vettese asked for a proposal from ARH for the application and management, which ARH had previously submitted to the town but he was presenting it once more.

“This will be for a not-to-exceed number of $3,200 to prepare the permit application, required reports, maps and figures, and correspondence with the Pinelands,” Herrmann said.

Furgione made the motion to approve the amount; Wuillermin seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.

The last action item in Herrmann’s report regarded the basin remediation project at Traditions at Blueberry Ridge.

“We worked with Mr. Malinsky. We submitted a cost—actually, I’m going to revise that cost. I’m asking for a not-to-exceed number of $4,000 to do engineering services for the Traditions at Blueberry Ridge basin remediation. This would entail some minor survey work, design work and some oversight to make their repairs that are required to the basins,” Herrmann said.

The cost as presented on the council agenda was originally $6,000. DiDonato asked for a motion to approve the amount, and Furgione responded.

“I’ll make that motion before it goes back up to $6,000 … we’ve never had a sale on engineering before,” Furgione said.

Renee Rodio seconded the motion, and Sam Rodio inquired further.

“I hope this is the end; is this the end?” he asked.

Malinsky responded.

“Part of what needs to be done, we need ARH’s specifications. We’ll go out for us to hire a contractor and do what needs to be done,” Malinsky said.

Sam Rodio continued.

“But we’re about there?” he said.

Malinsky replied.

“We’re on our process, on our way of getting there,” Malinsky said.

DiDonato commented on the matter.

“This is all going to be paid through, in the settlement with the bonding company. This will not be taxpayer dollars,” DiDonato said.

DiDonato explained the matter further.

“We had received approximately $47,000 from the bonding company, and we’re estimating that the repairs that we have agreed to in the settlement—and the cost from ARH—will cost that or less. We’re hoping to not spend a penny of taxpayers’ money. Then, the homeowner’s association at Pulte—or Blueberry Ridge—will take over the homeowner’s association and take over the basin, so it will not be any further cost to the town of Hammonton,” DiDonato said.

Malinsky concurred with DiDonato.

“They’re already required, after we do these repairs, to take over the basin. Within the next year, they’re going to acquire ownership, and there’s a few—everything’s working itself out,” Malinsky said.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Herrmann’s report also contained the following information items:

• Skinner Property / 317 N. Egg Harbor Rd.: ARH has prepared a scope of work and schedule to do testing and monitoring at the Skinner site. The work will begin within the next few weeks.

• Lakeview Gardens Water Testing: ARH is coordinating with the town to contact the residents in the Lakeview Gardens section to ensure that they are getting the well tests.

• Water Quality Accountability Act Compliance: ARH is currently compiling responses to the Lead Service Line survey they created and sent to the residents. ARH received responses by approximately 10 percent of the property owners.

• Lake Park ADA Playground/Small Cities: The first phase of this project is complete. ARH is working with the town to develop the scope of the remaining phases. They have met with the Pinelands Commission to present the overall master plan concept, who has provided positive feedback as to the direction of the project. ARH is working with the town and its landscape architect to develop a comprehensive proposal to complete the design of the Hammonton Lake Park project.

DiDonato had one item under the mayor’s report.

“Wells Fargo, we had a nice conversation with the representatives who are going to help us get the grant—secure the grant—the other day. We’ve made another step in the process in securing that grant, and I hope to be able to report that we’ve gone over the finish line at the April meeting for that grant,” DiDonato said.

Under his report, Vettese said that an onsite meeting was held with American Athletic Courts regarding the tennis and pickleball courts at Hammonton Middle School.

“The proposal by the contractor suggested that, rather than straightening the bent poles for the surrounding fence, removing some and trying to basically fabricate and fix the old fence, it’s probably better just to take it down and start anew, so everything is brand-new at that particular facility—from the fence to the surface to the striping,” Vettese said.

Vettese said that the submitted price was $11,500.

“The school, when they have their meeting, they’ll probably participate in 50 percent of that cost,” Vettese said.

Oliva made the motion to approve the price; Sam Rodio seconded, and commented further.

He said that Board of Education President Sam Mento III, board member Kelly Donio and the board’s business administrator, Barbara Prettyman, were also present at the meeting.

“The way it sounded, they were ready to move along with this,” Sam Rodio said.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Vettese said that the contractor also agreed to remove the existing benches during the demolition of the courts.

“That’s at no additional cost,” Vettese said.

Vettese said that electrical cabinet for the six existing light poles is pitted and rusted. Vettese said that three quotes for repair work were sought.

“We got one back, and we’re waiting for a second one to come in. We’re asking for approval from council, even though it should less than the approval amount required by council—to get that work done as soon as possible, subject to the availability of funds,” Vettese said.

Vettese said that the school would also contribute 50 percent, subject to board approval.

Sam Rodio made a motion to approve an amount not to exceed $3,000; Oliva seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.

Regarding the well testing in the Lakeview Gardens section of Hammonton, Vettese said that the tests were scheduled for March 28.

“We got seven different people that responded back, and I’ll give the list of remaining ones—there’s probably about 14 left in that area; 54 were originally sent out, so people are coming in and paying attention to some of the discussion that occurred at council,” Vettese said.

Furgione commented further.

“We could chase 14 people around forever; we’ll chase, but, in the meantime, we can start talking about some sort of design,” Furgione said.

DiDonato concurred.

Vettese said that 4,100 letters were sent to residents regarding to lead and galvanized water service laterals in town; of those, approximately 900 to 1,000 responses were sent back to the town.

“We’re going to try to get that information in as soon as possible, because we’re trying to see if we could apply for a grant to have the work done. We’ve got to know whether we’re asking for 50 or 500,” Vettese said.

Furgione said that it was his opinion that those 900 responses could be plotted.

“We could weed out probably half of the other 3,000 just simply by the age of the home, and then we can get those plotted—and then resend out another letter,” Furgione said.

Vettese said that the responses were turned over to ARH.

“They’ll put that together and have a report for us,” Vettese said.

Vettese said that there were some respondents with lead or galvanized laterals, and Herrmann commented.

“It wasn’t many, if at all,” Herrmann said.

DiDonato asked for an approximate year after which lead and galvanized pipes would not be an issue.

“I believe galvanized and/or lead ended in the late ‘70s, so I would say, to be safe, call it the mid to early ‘80s—but it wasn’t for a very long period of time, either,” Furgione said.

Vettese echoed Furgione’s sentiments.

“The state recommends using a date of 1985 or 1986,” Vettese said.

DiDonato continued.

“Let’s plot all the homes after 1985, 1986; we know they’re good. Let’s take these 900 and see where we’re at,” DiDonato said.

Furgione noted that, during road construction in recent years, service laterals have been inspected and, if necessary, replaced.

“We could eliminate a lot of those. We could take that number—4,100—and get it down fairly quickly now,” Furgione said.

During his report, Vettese said that he received an email from Atlantic County officials regarding the resurfacing of Third Street from Wood Street to the county line

“Weather permitting, they’ll be milling the roadway—finishing up the curb and milling the roadway surface—this week. They’re going to try to get the base course in this week, and then possibly there’ll be the surface course next week. As long as the weather participates, that’ll occur,” Vettese said.

The next meeting of town council will be April 24 at 7 p.m.


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