MONROE – A residential development project has been issued a stop-work order for allegedly violating terms from a court-ordered settlement, according to the township administration.
A township construction official issued the order Aug. 14 at Building 6 of the Lennar at Monroe Parke residential project at 647 Spotswood Englishtown Road, which includes market-rate and affordable housing.
The builder received the order after the township determined that not enough progress was made on the mandated affordable housing part of the project.
The order prevents any additional permits issued or construction occurring for market-rate units, but the developer can continue building mandated affordable housing.
“Home builders have had some success in court against municipalities regarding affordable housing, but I will not allow them to exceed their court approvals by one inch,” said Gerald Mayor Tamburro in a statement from the township. “That is why I am stopping any new construction on this site.”
Based on a court-order settlement, the township said Lennar can build up to 76 market-rate homes and receive certificates of occupancy but also has to build five affordable housing units.
Township Administrator Alan Weinberg said the Lennar builders “had started their affordable units with steel framing but they have made little progress as of now.”
Seventy-three units were built at Building 6 when the township issued the stop-work order. The township “suspects that it would take many months, if not years, for affordable housing to be built on the site,” according to its release.
Lennar Corporation did not respond to an email request for comment on Friday.
Councilman Charles Dipierro, who said he brought concerns about the Lennar project to the governing body, believes the stop-work order will lead to the developer filing a lawsuit since the township already issued construction permits.
“It’s just like the Bald Eagle [project], they stopped the builder. [Now] they’re suing the mayor, suing the zoning board, suing the planning board, suing the council. This is what’s going to happen here,” Dipierro said. “There’s going to be another lawsuit.”
Dipierro said he was concerned that certificates of occupancy and building permits were being issued to allow construction to progress at the market-rate units more than for the affordable housing.
“When I brought it up at the council meeting it was kind of like ‘well we should be watching the store, guys, because they’re getting close … to the magic number,” Dipierro said.
A construction official can issue a stop-work order, officially called a stop construction order, for portions or all of a project if they determine that the builder is violating rules. The order can carry a daily penalty.
The stop-work is part of the state Municipal Land Use Law that all townships are required to follow.
“This issue, to me, is much more paramount than five affordable housing units,” Tamburro said. “All too often, national home builders think they can come into a town and ignore the state and local requirements that protect our residents. If you ignore these requirements, we shut you down. Pure and simple.”
According to the Lennar at Monroe Parke website, construction is scheduled to complete in 2020. The residential development first opened in 2017.