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Analysis

Stone Harbor Council Gets Update on COAH Housing Project

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – The borough is up against the requirements of its own ordinance with respect to a Third Avenue property the city purchased for $1.6 million in 2021. The triplex property was purchased by the borough as a means to offset its affordable housing obligation associated with the construction of a new subdivision on land that once was a part of the Villa Maria by the Sea Retreat House.

Public interest was raised when Administrator Manny Parada indicated at council meetings that the property would probably have to be elevated to satisfy requirements in borough ordinances before it could be certified as the affordable housing offset for the municipality.

At the Tuesday, Dec. 5, meeting of the borough council, Parada gave an update on the affordable housing trust fund and the status of the triplex property as a means of responding to public questions.

The trust fund is a dedicated source of funding to be used to further the borough’s affordable housing activities. It receives its funds from affordable housing property rents, developer fees and interest earned on its available balance.

Parada said the fund has taken in $4,817,338 since its inception, of which 97% was earned through developer fees on 552 properties in the borough. Parada added that almost $2 million has been expended from the fund to date, including the $1.6 million for the triplex property. The balance stands at $2.8 million.

On the fund expenses to date, Parada cited the purchase of the property and $263,990 in administrative fees, including the remodeling expense.

Parada then explained that the tax assessor had established a value for the triplex structure, minus the land value. The remodeling to date on the property has already exceeded the 40% threshold that triggers the municipal ordinance requirement to elevate the structure.

The borough does not yet have firm bids on the cost associated with the project, but it is clear that the property as an offset for the 112th Street subdivision is going to end up costing the borough more than expected when the property was initially purchased.

The bottom line of the presentation was that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is healthy, with a balance approaching $3 million.

As for the triplex property on Third Avenue, more work, and more expense, will still be required before it can serve as the borough’s offset for the new subdivision.

The purchase and early remodeling of the triplex property occurred during the period when Robert Smith was borough administrator. Parada inherited the project when Smith was removed by the council in February 2023, and Parada was named as interim and eventually permanent borough administrator.

Parada did not give a timetable for the completion of the Third Avenue project.

Contact the author, Vince Conti, at vconti@cmcherald.com.

Reporter

Vince Conti is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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