An application to build nearly 200 townhomes in nearby Wall Township on a Route 34 tract inched forward on Wednesday when the Board of Adjustment heard from the first witness called for the developer.
The application ran out of its 50-minute time limit and was scheduled to continue on March 20.
K. Hovnanian, of Red Bank, wants to build 199 townhouses on a roughly 37-acre tract on the state highway and Allaire Road. About 20 percent, or 40 of those homes would be reserved for affordable housing, according to the plan.
The property is zoned for office buildings and commercial development, with a small piece zoned for residential development. The developer is asking the board to combine the three zones into one residential zone, allowing for the development.
The Township of Wall objects, arguing that the development runs afoul of the town’s master plan, which does not allow for housing in the Route 34 corridor. The Township Committee has sent its affordable housing attorney, Jeffrey Surenian, to represent the township at the hearing.
But K. Hovnanian plans to argue that the project should be built because it provides needed affordable housing and therefore it is an “inherently beneficial use’’ – a designation normally associated with churches or schools.
The hearing started with a good amount of legal jockeying between the two sides.
K. Hovnanian argued that the township had no standing to object to the development and should not be heard in that capacity. Surenian argued that there were technical issues with K. Hovnanian’s legally required public notice of the hearing, which should call for a postponement.
Both sides were told to stand down by the board’s attorney and the hearing continued.
Testifying for K. Hovnanian was David Fisher, a K. Hov vice president. He was the applicant’s only witness Wednesday.
Fisher, a professional planner, said an idea to develop the Route 34 tract had been kicked around for more than a year. Twice, he said, K. Hov met with township officials with different proposals, mainly consisting of residential development.
Twice, township officials told K. Hov they were not interested, including the last time, in August 2012, when Surenian sent a letter detailing exactly why the township wasn’t interested in the proposal.
His letter, read into the record Wednesday, included objections to residential development in that area and that what K. Hovnanian proposed for affordable housing – at the time, a 10-percent set aside – fell short of the usual 20 percent set aside.
This time, K. Hovnanian brought a plan with the full 20 percent affordable housing component, Fisher said.
Fisher said the townhouses would be 2- and 3-bedroom units of up to 2,200-square feet, with a starting price in the “high $300,000 to mid $400,000’’ range.
The affordable units would be peppered throughout the development, but would be smaller – 1,000 to 1,200 square feet -- and would not be equipped with a garage as the market rate homes would.
Fisher said the development would include a clubhouse and pool area and would have one entrance/exit on Route 34 and two on Allaire Road. He said the development would cover only about 1/3 of the property and that the density would be about 6 units per acre.
“We don’t feel its an intense use of the property,’’ Fisher said.