Development Debate: Bamm Hollow Overview
Officials, Lincroft residents still not pleased with development prospects
What is on its way to being settled in court has still left Middletown officials and residents with an unsettling feeling.
After toiling over a court fight that has lasted a couple of years and cost the township hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees, the governing body has struck an agreement with the ownership of Bamm Hollow Country Club. It will allow for the construction of up to 190 single-family homes on the 280-acre site where they initially wanted to build it out to roughly 1,200 housing units, with a few hundred affordable.
The Township Committee Monday night passed a resolution outlining the settlement plan, which will now go before the Planning Board and back to the Township Committee for final approval.
Once okayed by both township entities, the settlement deal will be sealed, ending a long expensive fight with Bamm Hollow. But officials and residents feel the fight has just begun.
While officials say the last thing they wanted was to approve more development in a largely residential area, the news comes as the second hard pack of a one-two punch blow that many Lincroft section residents feel they’ve been dealt lately.
This settlement is tied to the already embattled development that is on the horizon for the site on Middletown Lincroft Road (close by) where Avaya used to lease office space and now, as a determined better alternative, more than 342 housing units, including 68 affordable “flats” is up for approval with the Planning Board.
The plan helps to satisfy the township’s affordable housing requirement and conforms to current zoning parameters. But Lincroft residents think the proposal defies their neighborhood “character” and stresses the township’s roads, schools and lifestyle.
Members of the Lincroft Village Green Association have emailed Patch opining that the additional 190 homes on the Bamm Hollow property could now mean a 25 percent population hike in the township, adding to their foreseen drain on life quality.
Township hands tied, Mayor Tony Fiore has reiterated that there are cost-effectiveness and logic issues at stake. From the onset, he reminded, the township got into the Bamm Hollow legal battle in an effort to stave off the potential for five times the development in Lincroft.
That battle has lingered in the courts for years. Officials’ fears including those of the township attorney, Brian Nelson, are that if they do not settle, Bamm Hollow could win the case in court and then the township would be forced to sanction the original 1,200-unit proposed development.
The 190 units the township is agreeing to approve, in exchange for the suit being dropped, is significantly less dense, confined to a minimum of one home per acre and includes no affordable housing.
Many Lincroft residents have expressed that they feel the compromise to call off the suit is more a sacrifice. Officials say they just can’t afford any more mounting legal costs to fight a battle that odds dictate they could lose and end up back at the start of the development/COAH fight.
Fiore and other officials have said they will continue to be relentless in their fight of what they call “archaic” affordable housing mandates that tie down the township and force what they say is an unaffordable burden of affordable housing down their throats.
He and others continue to claim that the last thing they want to do is add development to the township. However, he said, considering the Bamm Hollow settlement versus the gamble in court, cost to the taxpayer to fight and prospect of ending up at a loss, the risk of the township ending up in the worst case scenario is too high.
“Bamm Hollow has a current application pending for the development of 50 single family homes generally permitted under current zoning, butapproval of this application would not result in dismissal or withdrawal of Bamm Hollow’s pending appeal leaving hundreds of developable acres of property remaining …” the settlement resolution reads.
In addition, with this agreement, Bamm Hollow will set aside 120 acres of open space.
The resolution adds, in line with Fiore’s contention, that “given the lack of legislative action to reform COAH, the Court’s overturning of the Governor’s attempts to eliminate COAH by executive order, continued uncertainty as to what course of action the New Jersey Supreme Court may take with respect to the revised third round COAH rules, and the parties having negotiated in good faith to come to a reasonable resolution of this matter that has cost taxpayers significantly over the course of many years.”
The resolution will now go to the Planning Board for approval where the zoning changes that apply will also be considered and enacted if there is a majority vote. Then it goes back to the committee for final vote and approval.
Click here to see Administrator Anthony Mercantante's letter to the public about COAH.