Sparta developer takes Lafayette to court in affordable housing

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:52

    SPARTA n A Sparta developer has gone to court seeking permission to build 290 residential property units alongside a proposed Village Center near the intersection of routes 15 and 94 in Lafayette. Nouvelle Associates LLC has filed a petition to have the state's Community Affairs Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) grant a "builder's remedy" to construct 142 single-family residences, 83 town homes, 65 affordable housing apartments and 285,000 square feet of commercial retail and office space on 320 acres in Lafayette. The petition claims the Township of Lafayette has never acted to accommodate low- or moderate- income housing as mandated by the state's Fair Housing Act. According to COAH statistics, Lafayette has not provided any affordable housing units since the court-mandated program was established 18 years ago. Nouvelle said his development would satisfy the township's affordable housing obligation. Under the court ruling, Lafayette was to provide 17 units of affordable housing. According to Nouvelle Associates Lafayette failed to follow through on a 14-unit rehabilitation project in its only previous attempt at meeting the court's requirements. In November 2004, the township committee adopted a resolution requesting a special certification of any proposals by developers to build affordable units in Lafayette. An engineering consulting firm hired by Nouvelle Associates called Lafayette's resolution a "sham", an attempt at thwarting developers from filing lawsuits against the municipality. "The township has precluded the creation of affordable units by property owners by not providing the funding and necessary enabling ordinances," said Maser Consulting, P.A., of Hackettstown in its report. In 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that municipalities were obligated to provide housing within the reach of residents with less than an area's median income. State lawmakers responded to the court's order by establishing a "realistic opportunity" for moderate-income residents to buy homes by issuing goals through COAH. Sussex County has built or begun to build about only 25 percent of its affordable housing obligation since the court's decision. As late as 2003, COAH reports that Sparta had 75 affordable housing units. Nouvelle Associates has been negotiating with the Sparta planning board to build affordable housing units for seniors at its proposed designated town center along Main Street.