Planners were taken aback Thursday on hearing new plans for Elmwood Gardens, but Executive Director Randall Wood said there had always been a "Plan A and Plan B."
For more than two years, the Planning Board had expected low-income family townhouse development to replace the outmoded public housing complex, but Wood said a "huge need for senior housing" had prompted a shift to a three-story building for residents 55 and older.
He said the change was based on input from "focal groups" and on Union County waiting lists for housing.
"I have a real problem with this type of change," board Chairman Ron Scott-Bey said. "This is completely worthless," he said of a draft townhouse plan submitted in January.
Scott-Bey said the new concept would affect the city's COAH affordable housing obligation and it should have been discussed.
"It's a totally different design," he said.
"So we all recognize that this plan has to be amended," Planning Director Bill Nierstedt said.
One of the benefits of the townhouse plan was to have been a new layout with individual front doors instead of the hallways that were believed to foster loitering, trespassing and crime in the public housing. The proposed senior housing building will have just one entry with a security guard. Architect Brian M. Slaugh said the new plan calls for 0.7 parking spaces per unit, because seniors tend not to own cars. The board wanted 1.1 spaces per unit for the townhouses.
"This is a shock," Scott-Bey said.
Citing different needs of a senior population, such as security staff and transportation to medical offices, Scott-Bey said, "We need a new plan now."
Nierstedt told Wood that if the Housing Authority wanted approvals before the year ends, the revised plan would have to be ready in time for the board's Oct. 2 meeting.
Wood again said there had always been alternate plans, but Scott-Bey said, "Plan A and Plan B has no meaning to me."
The new plan must be in the Planning Office by Sept. 26 for review at the Oct. 2 meeting, Nierstedt said.