Verona Makes Solid Progress Toward Affordable Housing Goal

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Verona continues to move closer to gaining final approval of a multifaceted plan to fulfill its affordable housing obligation under guidelines set by the state of New Jersey.

Evidence of this progress can be seen in the resumption of building activity on a site at Pine and Depot streets, near Bloomfield Avenue and Linn Drive, across from the Verona Community Center. It is situated on properties formerly occupied by the Cameco meat-product plant and the Poekel Travel and Real Estate offices.

The development plan calls for construction of 95 apartments of various sizes (one, two, and three bedrooms), all of which will be affordable. It has received all required approvals, and has a tentative completion date of August 2024. (Affordable housing means a residence that a household can afford by paying 30% of its income or less on rent or a mortgage.)

Moreover, the Township Council has appointed an affordable housing agent, who has submitted a marketing plan for court review. If accepted, the plan will be implemented once the development at the former Cameco site is ready to accept residents.

Also serving to move matters along, in June the Council approved a measure (Ordinance 2023-18) that repealed portions of Chapter 150 of the Township Code and created a new Article XIX, titled simply “Affordable Housing.” At the same time, the Council adopted four resolutions that serve to implement provisions contained in Article XIX. The township has posted all the information about its affordable housing plans on its website here.

Those resolutions codify prior agreements that were reached between the town and the Spectrum360 school, owner of the property that the town has put forward as a second site for affordable housing.

Located at Sunset and Afterglow avenues, the Spectrum360 site would feature a 200-unit complex, with 15 of the apartments classified as affordable. Although constituting a smaller percentage of the total than would typically be permitted under state and local rules, the 15 affordable units are being allowed in this instance because the developer has agreed to pay $3.2 million to the Verona Affordable Trust Fund as a partial offset to the town’s purchase of the Cameco property. The money will be transferred to the trust fund following approval of the final Spectrum360 site plan.

The Spectrum360 review is in its concluding stages. The Planning Board has held a series of hearings intended to gain public input on specific features of the developer’s plan, and to allow Board members to raise their own concerns about particular aspects of the plan.

Although details of the developer’s site plan are still being discussed, the numeric affordable housing goal that the town envisions for the Cameco/Poekel and Spectrum360 sites has been approved by the Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization chosen by the state to set each municipality’s affordable housing goal.

This entire process has been overseen by a special master who, as regards Verona, is appointed by a state Superior Court judge for Essex County. The new Ordinance 2023-18 and the accompanying resolutions await review by the court. If those measures and the agreements with the developers win judicial approval, work at both sites can proceed with the assurance that their construction is fulfilling the community’s current affordable housing goal.

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Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
Kevin and his wife Valerie have live in Verona since 1985. He was a councilman from May 2011 to June 2021, and served as mayor from 2015 to 2019.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The marketing plan, which has been submitted for court review, will have information on signing up. We’ll post once it is available.

  2. The former Cameco property is a historic site. There is a newspaper article from the 1940s that talks about how a tavern was located there during the Revolutionary War that was visited by Lafayette and how, when they were building the train line, they would find revolutionary-war era coins. Has any historic commission been consulted to assist in looking for and preserving artifacts that may still be there, before they’re lost forever?

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