750 Walnut Avenue Proposal for 905 Apartment Units

UPDATE:  May 20, 2020

Cranford’s Fairness Hearing on the Affordable Housing Settlement is postponed until October 5, 2020 at 9:00 am. It will be held at the same time as the Township’s Compliance Hearing. The Compliance Hearing is the final hearing in the process to approved (or not) the Township’s Affordable Housing Fair Share Plan. The hearings will continue on October 6 and 7 if necessary.


The Cranford-FSHC Settlement Agreement is here:
https://www.cranfordnj.org/sites/cranfordnj/files/uploads/fully_executed_affordable_housing_settlement.pdf


Project Summary and Status Updates (oldest to newest):

Hartz Mountain Industries wants to build 905 mostly luxury rental apartments at 750 Walnut Avenue This will increase Cranford’s population up to 8 – 10%, severely straining our school system, emergency services, infrastructure, and traffic patterns in and around Cranford.

In March 2017 Hartz sent an application to the Cranford Planning Board requesting a zoning change from “commercial” to “residential” so they can build these 905 apartments. After Hartz postponed several times, their application began to be heard at the last Planning Board meeting on May 16, 2018.

Hartz experts completed their initial testimony on January 30, 2019. Cranford Township’s experts begin their presentations on February 20, 2019 and continued on March 6 and March 20, 2019. On March 20 School Superintendent, Scott Rubin, and consultant Dr. Ross Haber testified.
Here is the full Haber Demographic & Facility Study from December 2018 referenced during the March 20 Planning Board meeting.

The Cranford Public School District Business Administrator testified on April 3, 2019.
Cranford BOE Resolution on Proposed 750 Walnut Concerns July 2017
Cranford BOE 750 Walnut Development Impact on Cranford Schools by Ross Haber Assoc. May 2018

The Planning Board’s Planner testified at the May 1 & May 8 meetings.
Public comment on the application is on May 15, 2019. The Board’s decision on the re-zoning application is expected by the June 5, 2019 meeting.

Planning Board votes unanimously to recommend to the Township Committee that they reject Hartz Mountain’s application to rezone 750 Walnut Ave for residential development.

The Review Standards used by the Planning Board to evaluate the application are in the Township Code: § 255-64 Review standards.

Planning Board will prepare a report to the Township Committee. Report will be accepted at one of the next Planning Board Meetings.  The next meetings are June 19 and July 17, 2019.

In June, Cranford’s immunity from Builder’s Remedy lawsuits has been extended through September 30, 2019 –  the deadline for having a negotiated settlement with FSHC on a new Fair Share affordable housing plan.

The Township Committee will Not be voting on the Planning Board’s recommendation not to approve rezoning of 750 Walnut as residential at the August 13 meeting.  They have not received the Planning Board’s report yet.

Also Posted on CranfordNJ.org August 1, 2019:
Workshop and Closed Session on Monday, August 12, 2019
“In addition to its previously scheduled Tuesday, August 13th Workshop and Official Meetings, the Township Committee of Cranford will hold additional Workshop and Closed Session meetings on Monday, August 12, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. The meetings will include Agenda topics of “Affordable Housing Litigation.” Formal action may be taken at these meetings.”

Cranford Planning Board Workshop Meeting Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm
There will be “Resolutions of Memorialization” for the 750 Walnut Avenue – Hartz Mountain Industries Rezoning Application denial. The Board is expected to finalize their Report to the Township Committee on it’s vote recommending the rezoning application be denied.

On September 10, 2019 the Township Committee voted to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation to not rezone 750 Walnut Ave from commercial to residential.

In court on Cranford’s Affordable Housing Plan, the Township was granted an extension of immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits through October 25, 2019.

As a result of an October 2nd Case Management Conference, the township was granted another extension of immunity through Dec 2nd with the following provisions:
1) The Township and FSHC will negotiate a draft Settlement Agreement on or before October 29, 2019
2) The Township shall consider a resolution for the execution of a final  Settlement Agreement on or before the November 12, 2019 Township Committee meeting.
3) 
A follow-up Case Management Conference will be scheduled for November 15,  2019

On or about October 25, 2019 Hartz Mountain filed a lawsuit against the Township  challenging the Planning Board’s Resolution to deny rezoning of 750 Walnut Ave. to residential for multi-family development. Note this is NOT a builder’s remedy lawsuit.

Cranford Township Committee meeting Tuesday, November 12th
Agenda Update:
In addition to voting on the Affordable Housing settlement agreement, there will be a presentation by the Township’s affordable housing attorney with an opportunity to ask questions.

There will also be an informal session on Monday, November 11 from 6:00 – 7:30 pm in Town Hall Room 108.

The Settlement Agreement is here:
https://www.cranfordnj.org/sites/cranfordnj/files/uploads/fully_executed_affordable_housing_settlement.pdf

The Cranford Township Committee voted to approve the Settlement Agreement negotiated between the township and FSHC on November 12, 2019.

A Fairness Hearing is scheduled for February 19, 2020 at 10:00 am in the Union County Courthouse. The public is allowed to attend this hearing.

The Fairness Hearing is where the Court will evaluate whether the proposed Settlement Agreement is fair and reasonable to the region’s low and moderate income households.

Third parties are allowed to object to the Settlement Agreement in writing no later than January 13, 2020. Hartz Mountain is expected to object.

If the court approves the Settlement Agreement, there will be a Compliance Hearing in several months to determine if the township’s full Fair Share Plan provides the means by which it will satisfy the obligations established in the Settlement Agreement.

If the plan is approved, the court will issue a judgement granting immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits through the period of the agreement, which is 2025.

January 13, 2020 – Hartz Mountain sent documents opposing the Cranford – FSHC Settlement Agreement and requested that the Fairness Hearing, scheduled for February 19, 2020 be postponed:
Hartz Mountain Brief Opposing the Settlement Agreement
Cover Letter to Hartz Expert Report
Expert Report
Expert Report Exhibits 1 – 5
Expert Report Exhibits 6 – 8
Expert Report Exhibits 9 – 11

On January 27-28 Cranford sent a Brief and Planner’s Report opposing Hartz Mountain’s objections to the Settlement Agreement:
Cranford Brief Responding to Hartz Objections
Cranford Planners Report in Response to Hartz Objections

On January 27 FSHC filed a brief supporting Cranford’s Fair Share Plan and opposing Hartz Mountain’s objections:
Fair Share Housing Center Response to Hartz Objections

On February 5 the Court appointed Special Master submitted her report supporting Cranford’s Settlement Agreement and opposing Hartz Mountain’s objections: Special Masters Report

On February 13, 2020, due to Hartz Mountain’s objection to the Township’s Settlement Agreement with Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), the Judge ordered Cranford and Hartz to mediation and postponed the Fairness Hearing.

Hartz was ordered to submit a ‘concept plan’ (new settlement proposal) to the Township by March 3, 2020. Cranford and Hartz must then submit a Joint Status Report to the court by March 13. Pending the results, the Settlement Agreement Fairness Hearing is tentatively rescheduled for March 18.

Also Hartz Mountain brought in 2 more legal firms.

March 14, 2020 – The Cranford-FSHC Settlement Agreement Fairness Hearing is postponed until May 19, 2020 at 10:00am in the Union County Courthouse, Elizabeth.

April 15, 2020
The (new) judge on our Affordable Housing Settlement case wants to have the Fairness Hearing on May 19 via telephone conference .

Cranford’s lawyer suggested having the hearing via video conference.  His other suggestion is to combine the Fairness and Compliance Hearings to be held in court in October.

Hart Mountain objects to having the hearing outside of court. They may agree to the combined hearings in October. Here are the PDF’s:

Clerk Notices regarding a new judge and the Fairness Hearing

2020-04-13_Cranford’s-Letter-About-Fairness-Hearing

2020-04-14_Hartz-Mountain’s-objection-to-remote-hearing

UPDATE:  April 27, 2020
There will be some kind of telephone hearing between the court and at least one of Hartz Mountain’s law firms on April 28, 2020 at 10:00 am. It is not clear what the hearing is about, but may be to hear arguments against the electronic Fairness Hearing scheduled for May 19, 2020.

May 20, 2020
Cranford’s Fairness Hearing on the Affordable Housing Settlement is postponed until October 5, 2020 at 9:00 am. It will be held at the same time as the Township’s Compliance Hearing. The Compliance Hearing is the final hearing in the process to approved (or not) the Township’s Affordable Housing Fair Share Plan. The hearings will continue on October 6 and 7 if necessary.


Cranford Planning Board Procedure:

The basic procedure is a Hartz Mountain expert witness is questioned by the Hartz representative. Then the Planning Board can ask questions of that expert, then the residents. Like a court proceeding, only questions are allowed, not comments. Questions can only relate to that particular person’s area of expertise. Then Hartz questions the next expert and so on until all experts have been questioned.


Hartz Mountain application document updates October 2018 – January 2019:

Hartz Mountain Revised Site Plans Dec 2018

Hartz Environmental Impact Study Nov 2018

Hartz Revised Storm Water Management Report Dec 2018

Hartz Traffic Impact Analysis Updated Jan 2019

Hartz Fiscal Impact Report Updated Oct 2018

Hartz original application documents and previous updates:

Hartz Application to Rezone 750 Walnut Ave, March 2017

Hartz Planning Report Supporting Rezoning Request March 2017

Hartz Site Survey November 2016

Hartz Proposed Zoning Plans March 2017

Hartz Architectual Plans March 2017

Hartz Langan Traffic Study:

Original March 2017
Updated September 2018

Hartz Fiscal Impact Planning Report:

Original March 2017
Updated September 2018

Cranford Development Review Committee Request for Department Reviews, May 2017

Engineering Professional Review

Environmental Committee Professional Review

Fire Department Professional Review

Health Department Professional Review

Historical Preservation Advisory Board Professional Review

Township Executive Stormwater Management Statement

Township Request to Hartz for Additional Info, August 2017

Township Traffic Professional Review Update, May 2018


Ways you can help:

  • Buy a “Say NO to 750 Walnut Ave” lawn sign to display in your front yard. Signs are $10. Email CRAOCranford@gmail.com for how you can get a sign.
  • Pass information about this project and Planning Board meeting dates to your neighbors and Cranford friends.
  • Come to Planning Board and Town Council meetings when the 750 Walnut Avenue project, Affordable Housing plans, or overdevelopment are on the agenda. Agendas must be posted a minimum of 48 hours before the meeting. Agendas can be found here:  https://www.cranfordnj.org/minutes-and-agendas.