The Town Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, October 28 to discuss the plan to redevelop the Spectrum 360 property at the corner of Sunset and Bloomfield Avenues as market-rate and affordable housing. The meeting will be held in the ballroom of the Verona Community Center, not the Council chambers, and will begin at 7 p.m.
In October 2018, the Council reached a settlement with Spectrum 360, a school for children on the autism spectrum, that would have allowed it to sell its property to a developer with a plan to build 300 apartments, 20% of which would be affordable housing. But that fell apart in January when the Verona Planning Board voted that the property, once known as The Children’s Institute, did not meet the criteria of an “area in need of redevelopment”.
Verona officials then drafted a proposal to allow 200 market-rate one- and two-bedroom units at the site, which has 5.5 acres in Verona and 2.5 acres in Montclair. That proposal included a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement and a $6.25 million payment from Spectrum 360 to Verona, which the town would use to finance the construction of a separate affordable housing development on the Cameco property.
But when the new proposal went to the Council for a public vote in May, lawyers for Spectrum 360 stunned the Council by demanding that Verona backstop it in case the Planning Board didn’t approve the agreement. Under the so-called Plan B, the new developer could build 300 units, only 15% of which would be affordable and there would be no funds to pay for the Cameco site work. The Council had to accept this “B” plan with the 200-unit “A” plan or risk being forced into a so-called builder’s remedy lawsuit that would impose hundreds more affordable housing units on Verona.
The Council reluctantly approved the two-part agreement and sent the project back to the Planning Board, which voted in August to designate the site as an area in need of redevelopment.
Verona, like most other municipalities in New Jersey, is under pressure to build more affordable housing; in our case, that’s 238 more units. This is not housing for people on public assistance, which is known as Section 8 housing. Affordable housing means a residence that a household can afford by paying 30% of its income or less on rent or a mortgage.