Relocate The Planned Apartment Complex Across from Moorestown Upper Elementary School
Relocate The Planned Apartment Complex Across from Moorestown Upper Elementary School
Why this petition matters
The Mayor & Council recently approved a large, high-density apartment project across from the Moorestown Upper Elementary School (UES) on Borton Landing Road, without any input from area residents or the School Board. This is a terrible decision with a problematic location for the UES and nearby neighborhoods. This plan will negatively impact ALL Moorestown taxpayers. We realize affordable housing is necessary and serves an important social goal. We expect our Town's leaders to make wise decisions on the LOCATION of high-density apartment projects. This was not done here. We respectfully request the Council reconsider this location for the following reasons.
1) The project will increase dangerous traffic at the UES with hundreds of cars, delivery trucks, school buses (taking kids to other Township schools) entering/exiting the apartments daily. Many vehicles will enter Borton Landing Rd. at the same time children are entering/exiting the UES. The Council is relying upon a "traffic impact study" done in May 2021, while the pandemic was still winding down. The study did not mention UES school pick-up/drop-off times, which are the busiest times of the day for traffic.
2) The location is dangerous for the apartments' children. Can you imagine dozens of kids crossing the road to get to/from school with the traffic (40 mph speed limit), even with a crossing guard? After school, kids will be crossing the road to get to the playground/fields near the UES with no crossing guard. It's a recipe for disaster.
3) There are many better locations for a large high-density apartment complex such as: a) Rt. 38 - several apartment projects already being developed there; b) the Moorestown Mall, 375 additional new apartments were recently approved, with 690 more apartments already planned; c) the old K-Mart shopping center on Rt 38, where 390 more apartments are already part of the housing master plan; d) the corner of Centerton Road/Marne Highway closest to TopGolf; e) near the border with Cinnaminson at the end of Church Street, past Wesley Bishop fields (where 180+ apartments are already planned). Those locations make sense; with easy access to jobs, stores, highways and existing public transportation. By contrast, the UES site in the middle of a large farm field has no shopping, jobs, convenient public transportation or restaurants within walking distance.
4) Open Space/Farmland Preservation: Moorestown's taxpayers pay approx. .1% of our property taxes towards open space/farmland preservation. Here, the Township now controls 25 acres out of a large square almost pristine parcel of farmland (totaling approx. 100 acres) bordered by Hartford, Westfield, Centerton and Borton Landing Roads. The Council can effectively preserve the entire 100 acres by moving the location of this apartment project to another location that is more suitable in our Township. This means the Township would SAVE MILLIONS by not having to purchase farmland in the future, because we already own this land. Why does the Council want to destroy a huge parcel of open farmland in the middle of our Township?
5) By comparison, Mount Laurel recently built 103 apartments across from Costco at Centerton Square. Mount Laurel's Council had the good sense to place the apartments next to a shopping center; not in the middle of a huge farm field next to a large elementary school or their own residents' prime real estate. Our Mayor & Council apparently do not share that good sense. This UES apartment complex will be 50% larger than the Mt. Laurel project. The project will consist of 17 separate buildings, 2-3 stories in an area smaller than 3 small soccer fields.
6) Making matters worse, the Mayor & Council have not been transparent in providing information about the project. The planning/approval process was completed DURING A NATIONAL PANDEMIC while the Council was meeting "virtually". The UES site involved a private "land swap" secretly negotiated by the Council and property owner in March 2021 without any public comment. Less than 45 days elapsed between the public announcement of the apartment project on June 14, 2021 and the Council's approval on July 26, 2021.
7) Many residents are dissatisfied with this plan. To my knowledge, the Mayor & Council did not send any notices or letters to local taxpayers and homeowners. Instead, all planning was done DURING A PANDEMIC without any input from parents of UES students, local property owners or any input from the School or Board of Education. There is research indicating that low income housing should not be clustered in large numbers in areas where it does not "blend in" with surrounding properties.
8) This project will be extremely costly to the taxpayers, when other less-expensive options exist and must be explored. The Council is giving the developer the land for FREE. No appraisal has been done to my knowledge. The developer will pay NO SCHOOL/PROPERTY TAXES to the school district. Indeed, the Council agreed to an exemption from property taxes to the developer. The Developer for the first 15 years only needs to pay 6.28% of their revenue to the Township (not the schools) in a payment in lieu of taxes ("PILOT"). This is a small fraction of what a typical large apartment complex would pay. When I pondered whether the developer could build this project without the Council giving them the land and without the generous tax exemption, there was no answer from the Mayor & Council. Meanwhile, Moorestown taxpayers will be stuck with the Council's decisions for decades.
9) in order to qualify for federal and State funding for these apartments, the Mayor & Council are creating a NEW PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION ROUTE (fully funded by Moorestown taxpayers) just to run to these apartments. The bus/shuttle could bring people from all over southern NJ to the doorsteps of our largest elementary school.
10) violations of zoning laws. The Council ignored and then changed several zoning ordinances and laws in order to allow this project on previously zoned farmland. A lawsuit challenging the zoning issues is currently pending. I am not a part of that lawsuit since I do not live close enough to the UES site.
11) THIS ENTIRE PROJECT IS NOT NECESSARY TO MEET THE TOWNSHIP'S AFFORDABLE HOUSING OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE 2018 SETTLEMENT. The Mayor & Council claim that these apartments are absolutely necessary by Court Order and that they are doing only what is required to meet the Court requirements. This is not accurate. Under the 2018 settlement filed with the Court, the Township already meets its obligations with the 7 other apartment projects in development. And, that was BEFORE the 375 apartments were approved at the Mall. Why would the Council agree to the Moorestown taxpayers paying tens of millions of dollars for the next 50+ years for an extra apartment project if it is not necessary?
12) Lastly, there is an allegation in a pending lawsuit that Council member David Zipin had an existing or perceived conflict of interest in the approval of this project since he works for the NJ HMFA finance agency that is providing the funding for this project. It is my understanding that the project CANNOT BE BUILT without funding from Mr. Zipin's employer. Despite knowing he had a conflict, council member Zipin voted multiple times in support of this project and only recused himself AFTER his conflict was made public, in Aug. 2021. By that time, the damage had been done (in my opinion). He had already voted in favor of several ordinances creating these apartments and participated in the negotiations for the project.
For these reasons, the undersigned residents demand that the Mayor & Council delay this project it until it can be further studied/vetted or relocate the apartments to an appropriate location. Thank you.
p.s.- this Petition is NOT against affordable housing. We all realize affordable housing is needed and serves a beneficial social goal. This Petition is concerned about the location and size of this project without proper notice given to the residents before it was approved. Please continue to share with your friends and neighbors. Also, feel free to email the Mayor & Council members at: NGillespie@moorestown.nj.us; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; and firstname.lastname@example.org.