Joseph F. Berenato
Townhome Plan OK’d
60-65 3-bedroom units for sale for $300K on West End
HAMMONTON—A special meeting of town council was held on August 8 to discuss a redevelopment agreement between the town of Hammonton and West End Development Associates, LLC.
According to the agreement, the area to be redevelopment encompasses Block 2413, Lots 13 and 16 (and, at redeveloper’s option, Lots 10-12); Block 2416, Lots 1 and 19; Block 2417, Lot 1; and Block 2418, Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8. The agreement states that Block 2418, Lot 7 is to be “acquired by the town and then transferred to the redeveloper.”
“The redeveloper agrees to reimburse the town for all legal fees and costs (along with any other reasonable and necessary fees and costs) upon completion of the acquisition process,” the agreement states.
These lots and blocks are parcels of land on West End Avenue, from 13th Street to Orchard Street; on Pleasant Street, from West End Avenue to Washington Street; and on Washington Street, from Pleasant Street heading toward Orchard Street.
Attorney Brian Howell, who served as conflict solicitor for the agreement, gave a brief history of the redevelopment of the area in question.
“That property has been under the microscope from the town for a good two decades, probably 20 years since a redevelopment agreement was discussed, way back, by Peter P. Karabashian Associates. In 2006, we were subject to a builder’s remedy suit that eventually got settled in 2011. The genesis of a lot of what you see here tonight came from that 2011 settlement,” Howell said.
Howell said that the developer previously attached to the project is under contract to sell the project to West End Development Associates, LLC.
“I think that’s a good thing because, for a variety of reasons, it never really got off the ground, and that neighborhood is in need of redevelopment,” Howell said.
Brian Peterman, of Peterman Maxcy Associates, described the proposed project.
“It starts with 60 townhomes on, as your solicitor said, a very underutilized, mostly vacant property that’s definitely in need of redevelopment,” Peterman said.
Peterman noted that West End Avenue has a great many old trees. He said that the developer “intends to preserve the health of the tall poplar trees which line West End Avenue and adjust the development to keep these trees healthy in the foreseeable future.”
“We’ve located those trees, and what we’re going to do is adjust those driveways for these units, and have adjusted those buildings in hopes and the desire is to maintain that street along that corridor,” Peterman said.
Peterman said that the townhomes will be between four to six units in a row.
“We’re not looking to do these long stretches of townhomes. We want to keep these tight. We’re working with Ryan Homes; they like to see a maximum of six,” Peterman said.
Peterman said that the developer is looking to maintain as much green space as possible.
“We’ve got great lot depths here, so it gives us the availability to make sure that we’ve got the required off-street parking from residential site improvement standards with a stacked driveway. We’ve got some other opportunities along some of the side streets for overflow parking, as well. We’re looking to create green space along the perimeter of the homes,” Peterman said.
Peterman said that open-space areas will be “owned and maintained by an HOA [Home Owner’s Association].”
“In this particular case, the HOA will be maintaining the entire development so we have a nice, consistent development. We don’t have to worry about one neighbor cutting the grass one day, and the other; it’ll be nice, consistent. We’re going to have restrictions on fencing, sheds and the like so we don’t have that hodge-podge of development,” Peterman said.
Councilman Edward Wuillermin inquired if each unit will be on a fee-simple under individual ownership, and Peterman replied.
“It will be a true townhome, with fee-simple, individual lots, but they will all be part of an HOA that will maintain the balance of the open spaces,” Peterman said.
Peterman said that the project will feature approximately 10 units per acre.
“With Presentation Board A, we have 6.03 acres; that yields us our 60 units—which is just shy of 10 units per acre, but we are looking to maintain that. The second board—what we call Exhibit B—is a 65-unit development, and it gives us the option; there’s three lots down on the north end that may be available—that may be under contract for us. This adds about another half an acre of development for the project,” Peterman said.
Peterman described the townhomes themselves.
“It’s a one-car garage, three-story townhome unit that has varying architectures ... it’s got nice variations of different peaks of the roofs, different aesthetic features of the brick or siding, different other features in that regard to help create that break and that look,” Peterman said.
Lee Brahin, president of Brahin Properties, said that West End Development Associates, LLC is a single-purpose entity formed specifically for this project, and is one of many entities overseen by Brahin Properties.
Brahin Properties, Brahin said, is a multi-generational business based in the Philadelphia-South Jersey area and has worked on a number of residential projects in the region.
“We did 50 single-family homes in Gloucester Twp.; Ryan developed the homes. They sold that out in approximately a year. We’re in Stratford Boro right now, and we have 49 townhomes that are under construction with Ryan; we’re hoping to deliver the first lots to them in about October of this year. We’re getting ready to start a project with 39 singles in Monroe Twp.; we also have a large, industrial building as part of that project, as well, about a quarter-million square feet in Sicklerville. We’re working on a new one right now with Ryan which is in Glassboro, and it’s 100-plus townhomes,” Brahin said.
Brahin said that they have done “numerous redevelopment agreements with towns in New Jersey.”
“We’ve developed properties in redevelopment areas, Pinelands, and all of our funds are self or are obtained from bank or life insurance companies. We do have some limited investors that invests along with us, but we’re just a self-contained entity,” Brahin said.
Michael Weisberg, of West End Development Associates, LLC, said that they had “several meetings with Ryan Homes.”
“Typically, when they come into a town, they put in one of their lower kind of units, not their higher-end units. They knew that the area—with the walkability in Hammonton—was an area they wanted to get into. When we met with them on several occasions, Lee really was insistent that they start with one of their higher-end products and were willing to commit to units that had a lot of masonry and were a much better-looking townhouse, because we thought the area deserved that,” Weisberg said.
Howell inquired as to bedroom distribution for the proposed units.
“I think the bedrooms are three bedrooms,” Peterman said.
Councilman Steven Furgione asked if there would be parking across from the driveways to each townhouse, and Peterman responded.
“Even though we’re going to be able to get what I envision as three parking spaces per unit ... We do have on-street parking that’s going to become available; that was one of the issues. The hard issue with that is working to maintain those trees and still have that parking—and those interactions that go with it,” Peterman said, noting that those parking spots would be available for the public, not just the inhabitants of the townhouses.
Howell said that, when the agreement was negotiated in 2011 with the prior developer, it was “with no affordable housing on site.”
“This will be the same. It will be no affordable housing here. There will be a contribution per unit; it works out to about $8,000 per unit as each unit is constructed, and that’ll be a contribution to the town’s affordable housing fund—which will certainly be the biggest boost it’s had since it was created,” Howell said.
Wuillermin asked for clarification.
“So that means all units will be market-rate?” Wuillermin said.
Howell answered in the affirmative.
Councilman William Olivo inquired further.
“That total for the affordable housing contribution is going to be how much?” Olivo said.
Howell said that if the project encompasses 60 units, the contribution will be $480,000; if it is 65, the total will be $520,000.
During discussion, Furgione commented further on the matter.
“You’re going to have 60 or 65 market-rate units, then we get a contribution to COAH [Council on Affordable Housing], but there will be no affordable component in this project, which means that should set the precedent in future projects,” Furgione said.
In a telephone conversation with The Gazette on August 10, Town Solicitor Michael Malinsky said that Hammonton’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is managed by the town.
“Hammonton has its own affordable housing trust fund, and any money required to be paid into such trust fund will remain with Hammonton,” Malinsky said.
Malinsky described the process when a developer makes a contribution to the fund in lieu of providing affordable housing.
“They’re making it to our affordable housing trust fund so that the municipality can utilize that money to be able to administer affordable housing and the various programs that are available.”
When asked about commercial development, Malinsky said that, “any non-residential development has to contribute to a municipality’s affordable housing fund pursuant to the New Jersey Statewide Non-residential Development Fee Act.”
More information may be found at www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/ahtf.html.
During the meeting, Howell discussed further financial benefits of the redevelopment.
“We will also be the beneficiary of a payment—not by these gentlemen but by the current owner—of his back taxes that run about $207,000. As we discussed, there may be a small credit, so somewhere north of the $200,000 mark—again, a lump-sum payment to the town,” Howell said.
Brahin commented further.
“That’ll be through the title company at settlement,” Brahin said.
Howell said that the developer will participate in the town’s tax abatement ordinance.
“A five-year tax abatement that will gradually get them up to 100 percent of assessed value ... when that runs its course, the town will have a very nice ratable on the book,” Howell said.
Howell said that the town has also reached an agreement regarding water and sewer.
“Normally, the charge would be somewhere in the $4,700 range; it’s going to be $3,500 per unit, and the town’s going to contribute the equipment to match up to our equipment,” Howell said.
Furgione commented on the matter.
“There’ll be a $3,500 connection fee per unit; $2,000 for sewer, $1,500 for water. The town will furnish the water meter and the setter—horn, saddle, whatever you want to call it—for each unit,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that he was unaware the development would have an HOA.
“The $3,500 is capped for one-inch lines. If you’re going to put in a bigger line, we’re going to have to look at that. I don’t know if you’ll need irrigation for that green space. It’s not the end of the world; it’s just something we’re going to have to talk about,” Furgione said.
Wuillermin noted that the entire project will need to go through “the normal review process.”
“It’s got to go through the planning—the joint land use—and the Environmental Commission, Pinelands, so there’ll be plenty of opportunities for the public to get involved in seeing the nuts and bolts of this plan as it unfolds and through the development review process,” Wuillermin said.
Councilman Jonathan Oliva echoed Wuillermin’s sentiments, and said that this redevelopment agreement was only the first step.
“There’s Pinelands, there’s the county, Environmental Commission, the Planning Board; we’re talking likely a year process as we work our way through that,” Oliva said.
“That’s our hope, somewhere around a year, give or take; we all know the review process,” Peterman said.
During the public comment portion, Susan Picchione, of Washington Street, inquired about the projected price range for the homes.
Weisberg responded that the townhouses would sell in the mid-$300,000 range.
“Could get much higher ... probably in the mid-threes to maybe even four,” Weisberg said.
After the public portion closed, Mayor Stephen DiDonato continued.
“With that, I’d accept a motion from council to approve this project—for this resolution,” DiDonato said.
The resolution in question was Resolution No. 106-2022, Approving Redevelopment of West End Avenue.
According to the resolution, the town of Hammonton “entered into a Settlement Agreement with NIBR, LLC following a builder’s remedy suit and thereafter adopted an Amended Redevelopment Plan for the development of certain parcels in the vicinity of West End Avenue, Pleasant Street and Orchard Street.”
“NIBR, LLC and West End Development Associates, LLC have entered into an agreement for the potential sale of those parcels; and ... the sale is conditioned on the Town of Hammonton and West End Development Associates, LLC entering into a Redevelopment Agreement,” the resolution states.
According to the resolution, a committee appointed by DiDonato recommended approving the agreement.
“It is the opinion of the committee that the proposed development as set forth in the Redevelopment Agreement is in the best interest of the Town of Hammonton and is consistent with the provisions of the Settlement Agreement in that it shall assist in providing significant funds for the Town’s Affordable Housing Program,” the resolution states.
Wuillermin made the motion, which Olivo seconded. Councilman Thomas Gribbin, who was attending the meeting virtually via telephone, addressed the public.
“I received a copy of this proposal we went over at tonight’s meeting, and, although I’m not present right now, I have reviewed it and feel confident in voting on it,” Gribbin said.
Oliva commented further.
“I’d like to personally express support for this project. I think it’s a great project for this area, as I think we’ve all talked a little bit about today. I’d certainly stipulate to Mr. Peterman’s qualifications, working with our planning board a number of times, and looking forward to reviewing these plans in more detail as they come before the planning board,” Oliva said.
The resolution was approved unanimously.
Neither the redevelopment agreement nor Resolution No. 106-2022 were on the original meeting agenda as released by the town on August 5. On that agenda, the only reference was listed as “other items of discussion (possible Ordinance or Resolution may be adopted or introduced) – Redevelopment of property Located at Block 2413, lots 13/16 and adjacent properties.”
The full text of the agreement and resolution was not available until the town released an updated agenda at 12:24 p.m. on August 8. The meeting on August 8 began at 7 p.m.
This is the second special meeting of town council where the redevelopment topic was discussed. The first was at the special meeting on July 6, where the topic was not on the agenda.
In related business, council voted on approving Howell’s rate to represent the town as conflict solicitor with the redevelopment agreement.
“It’s a rate of $300 an hour,” DiDonato said.
Gribbin made the motion, which Olivo seconded. The motion was approved unanimously.
In other business, council held the public hearing for Ordinance No. 017-2022 – Registration of Foreclosure Mortgage Properties.
“It’s an ordinance through PROCHAMPS, and, basically, the town is able to charge the owner of the lienholder—the mortgage holder—a fee while the home is vacant,” DiDonato said.
DiDonato said that the fee schedule increases each year.
“It starts at $500 and it goes to $5,000,” DiDonato said.
According to the language of the ordinance, the fee schedule is as follows: Initial registration, $500; Initial registration Vacant Foreclosed, $2,000; Each annual renewal, $500; Each annual renewal Vacant Foreclosed, $2,000.
The ordinance was adopted and published.
Before the conclusion of the meeting, Furgione spoke about recent water usage in the town.
“I got the numbers last week; we pumped 60 million gallons of water for the month of July. Just to give you a little bit of a standard, last year—in 2021 in July—we pumped 52 million, so we’re up about 17 or 18 percent. I know it’s hot. I know we have not gotten rain in I don’t even know how long, but just please be mindful of your irrigation,” Furgione said.
Furgione said that, for the first seven days of August, the town pumped 20 million gallons of water.
“We’re on an 80-million-gallon month. That would be extraordinary for the month of August. We’re pumping three wells 12 to 14 hours a day now; 3,000 gallons a minute,” Furgione said.
Furgione cautioned residents about water usage.
“I don’t want anyone’s lawns to die, either. I don’t want my lawn to die. I don’t want your bushes and trees to die. But just remember: please, be cognizant, because it gets expensive,” Furgione said.
In other matters, Gribbin addressed council regarding tax rates, noting that the town has received the new rates from the county.
“It went down slightly, but I just want to update residents on that. Obviously, the water rates were due August 1, but their tax bills will be due 30 days thereafter,” Gribbin said.
DiDonato commented further.
“Probably the first or second week of September, right now we’re anticipating ... If everyone looks at your tax rate, there was a total of a one-cent tax decrease across the board. I think taxes were $2.739 per $100; now they’re $2.729—from memory, if I’m doing it right, so there’s a one-penny decrease, or about—on $100,000—roughly $7 or $8,” DiDonato said.
The last regular meeting of town council was on July 25. The next regular meeting is scheduled for August 29 at 7 p.m.