By Neil Schulman
Monmouth Beach — The borough has entered a settlement dealing with affordable housing, though there are still a few steps which need to be implemented before the courts accept it.
At the Jan. 8 Borough Commissioners meeting, an ordinance was introduced to settle a suit dealing with meeting the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) third round obligations.
Borough Attorney Dennis Collins says that implementing this ordinance, which modifies the borough’s Master Plan on what is considered proper zoning use, will protect the borough from litigation on affordable housing through 2025.
There’s a deadline to pass the ordinance, which has to be filed with a special master in charge of court cases relating to affordable housing by March 6. The commissioners have only one meeting between now and then, and some other things must happen first.
“The Planning Board has to go first. They have to have a public hearing,” Collins said. That’s because any ordinance that affects zoning can’t be approved until there’s board input.
This may require the board hold a special meeting to review the ordinance, so that the commissioners can vote on it at their February meeting.
Once Monmouth Beach files the ordinance with the special master, and meets with a judge to confirm that everything has been accomplished, they’ll be protected from any suits saying they don’t have sufficient affordable housing plans for the next six years.
Commissioner Dave Stickle noted that this has been a time consuming process. The COAH standards this protects against went into effect 20 years ago.
“It’s only been in the works since 1999… and now we’ve got to rush to the finish line,” he said.
Dredging seen as unlikely
While the federal government did some dredging of the Shrewsbury River near the Rumson area last year, Mayor Susan Howard says that it appears unlikely more will be done there — and despite resident complaints, Manhassett Creek is also unlikely to get dredged.
Residents believe that Superstorm Sandy put huge amounts of silt into the river and creek, and when it rains, that silt prevents the runoff from draining into the water properly.
Mayor Howard said that Monmouth Beach has been trying to get serious dredging done for a long time, even before the 2012 superstorm.
“During the Obama administration I was asking everyone to sign a petition for ‘shovel ready’ projects,” she said. They were trying to get federal aid to dredge the Shrewsbury.
While FEMA did a little work in the Shrewsbury last year (mostly by the Rumson channels), Manhassett Creek would need to be done by the state, which hasn’t been dredged in Monmouth Beach for at least 30 years, and some attendees at the meeting said it was at least 50.
“I don’t believe it’s ever going to happen,” Howard said. “It’s too much money, and it’s perceived as for rich people with boats.”
As for the idea that the silted river is making it harder for water to drain, “science isn’t backing it up,” Howard said.
“Common sense is,” countered Commissioner Jim Cunniff.
Howard also noted that Monmouth Beach had less influence with the Phil Murphy administration than it did with the previous New Jersey governor. (Chris Christie’s Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, is a Monmouth Beach resident and former commissioner of the borough.)