Developer curtails Mine Hill plan

Date Published: 
Sun, 05/07/2006

MINE HILL -- A developer plans to build only 275 housing units off Canfield Avenue instead of the 744 units previously proposed, since the township has agreed to buy most of the land at the site.

The 275 units to be built on 50 acres will be age-restricted and a concept plan to submit to the town already is in the works, Jeff Freireich, spokesman for the developer, Florham Park-based Kushner Co., said.

Plans to develop the tract had been proposed by various developers for about 30 years, and at one point a court ruling said 800 units could be allowed there.

The latest smaller development plan was worked out as part of the agreement to sell most of the land to the township, said Glenn Geiger, an attorney for the project, said Friday.

The township council unanimously approved a resolution this past Thursday to buy approximately 180 acres of the Canfield site for $12.4 million. The land will be purchased with state, federal and county grants, and will be preserved as open space.

"It's a great open space purchase for the community," Mayor Richard Leary said. He said it would maintain the character of Mine Hill and keep the township from becoming overgrown.

The entire site was 229 acres.

Under the agreement, Canfield Building Associates, a subsidiary of Kushner, retains the right to develop the remaining 50 acres "with a senior citizen housing development employing a townhouse or flat arrangement or a combination of townhouses and flats."

Any development would be subject to the necessary planning board approvals.

Lengthy negotiations

"This is the culmination of many, many years" of negotiations, Council President Marc Sovelove said at Thursday night's meeting.

"The build-out of the age-restricted housing will provide a funding mechanism for the school for many years to come as well as for the municipality,"Sovelove said.

The 50-acre parcel to be developed is at the southern end of the tract, near the Randolph Industrial Park, Leary said Friday.

Canfield also agreed to sell to the township an additional 17-acre tract located near the Canfield Avenue School.

The previous development application by Canfield called for as many as 744 units, to be a combination of townhouses and "stacked" units.

Discussions about developing the site began in the 1970s. Canfield Building Associates has owned the site since the 1980s.

Leary said that township officials have been working on plans to buy the tract for the past three years. He said surveys showed much of the land was buildable even if remediation was needed to fill old mine shafts that are on the property.

The larger development would have been a detriment to the town, Leary said. Because the new plan calls for age-restricted housing it won't increase the school population, but will provide tax revenue to support the school budget, he said.

The larger development that was proposed would have required knocking down all the trees, but now the 180 acres purchased by the township will be preserved as public open space and a water recharge area, the mayor said. Ball fields can someday be built on a small corner of land near the school but the rest of the acreage will be left alone, he said.