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Hekemian Discusses Affordable Housing at ShopRite Hearing

The owners of Boulder Run worked with the township to make a compromise when they previously applied for their expansion.

Developer Bryan Hekemian explained some of the details behind a compromise made between Wyckoff and Munico Associates, the company which owns Boulder Run, which led to the expansion of Boulder Run and brought 16 affordable housing units to the township during a meeting of the Wyckoff Planning Board Wednesday night.

Hekemian is objecting to Inserra Supermarkets' plan to build a new 62,000-square-foot ShopRite at the site of the former A&P on Wyckoff and Greenwood Avenues. He had that the affordable housing units, built during Boulder Run's expansion between 2008 and 2010, were a financial loss, but did not give any specifics.

While pro-Inserra attorney John Lamb cross-examined Hekemian Wednesday, the developer explained the cost of building a mixed-use building is much higher than building for retail alone. The construction cost 50 percent more than the company had budgeted for, a total sum which Hekemian described as "millions of dollars" and said would not be recouped during the 30 years the apartments are classified as affordable housing.

When questioned by Lamb, who was hired by the owner of the vacant Greenwood Avenue lot, Hekemian said the company does make net income off the residential portion of Boulder Run.

Hekemian and another witness, Wyckoff affordable housing planner Elizabeth McKenzie, both spoke about a compromise made between Munico and the township which led to Boulder Run's expansion being approved.

According to Hekemian, a previous Boulder Run application had been shot down because residents rallied against it. Two zones were then combined to allow residential and retail spaces to occupy the same lots in Boulder Run and supermarkets were added to the list of permitted uses, though there was already a smaller Stop & Shop in Boulder Run before the expansion.

"The intent was to ensure we would need absolutely no variances or any fast ones pulled on us in the eleventh hour of the application," Hekemian said.

McKenzie said the township had wanted Boulder Run to contain affordable housing in order to adhere to the state's Mount Laurel doctrine, which requires municipalities to have housing for low-income families. The doctrine was regulated by the Council on Affordable Housing until 2011.

"The focus was to make a compromise and sell it to COAH," McKenzie said.

Hekemian previously testified that he wanted the town to "painstakingly" review Inserra's application the same way it examined Munico's. The 16 affordable housing units and extra retail space replaced 104 regular housing units Munico had originally planned for the site.

The hearing will continue at a special meeting June 25 at 7 p.m.

look May 11, 2012 at 10:47 AM
One thing has nothing to the other. Good for both Wyckoff and the developer to agree to that compromise back then as it minimized town infrastructure costs to support a smaller low income housing population. The Inserra application on the other hand is for supermarket to replace what was in place in the downtown area in the early 1970's when the town's population was about 17,000 and today it is about 16,850. Enough is enough on this topic. Just approve so the consumer can have more competitive grocery prices.
Alice Cole May 11, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Why is it that the Town Boards bend over backwards listening to developers whine and whistle about their business problems while the townspeople are given little if any opportunity to publicly address any application? The only things to be considered by these Bds. is if the application is within legal limits, reasonable and of Benefit to the majority of the population of the town AND the input of the public should also be considered. The voters did not elect these Bds. and the way they are selected randomly leaves much to be desired. At least let the public speak for one meeting. We have that right guaranteed to us, I believe!
Chuck May 11, 2012 at 07:02 PM
It’s not surprising that things such as the affordable housing building keep coming up. The Wyckoff Township boards are populated with good old boys (GOB’s) and cronies. The majority of voting residents normally vote for the party and not the individual running for office. Because of this we got what we deserved in the Boulder Run Shopping Center. Gone is the small, colonial town character. To someone seeing the rear of the affordable housing building for the first time it could be the anything: warehouse? town maintenance building? or just an oversight in the plan? Another example of the GOB attitude that prevails on the township boards happened recently where Thomas Madigan, a former Wyckoff committeeman, was appointed as an alternate to the town zoning board of adjustment. Not consulted prior to the Township Committee meeting where the vote took place was Brian Scanlan, a committeeman but a non GOB. Ironically he is the township committee liaison to the board. Also not considered were two applications from residents, both of whom have credentials in city planning.
Andrea May 16, 2012 at 10:40 PM
I'm not sure how Chuck makes a connection between the Boulder Run affordable units and Thomas Madigan's appointment to the zoning board of adjustment. One has nothing to do with the other. In fact, Mr. Madigan took his seat on the Township Committee 4 years after Boulder Run was approved. Additionally, he was involved on the team (with Chuck's guy, Brian Scanlan) which worked on the acquisition of Russell Farms to prevent even more high density affordable housing. Of course Chuck never acknowledges anything positive that the majority party accomplishes. Seems like "GOB" is Chuck's code word for Republican.

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