Christie Says No to Homes for Disabled Veterans – Just in Time for Pearl Harbor Day

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Today is the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, a day when we reflect on the sacrifices of so many veterans who made our country and our world what it is today.

It’s perhaps a little surprising, then, that Gov. Christie thought that this was a good time to shut down a proposed development for disabled veterans in Salem County – which, absent his interference, could have broken ground and provided both homes and jobs by Pearl Harbor Day next year.

On Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported a decision that the Christie Administration had tried to bury – releasing it in an obscure e-mail from DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa at the end of the day outside of a public meeting and not even posting it on the web. A developer in Carneys Point Township, Salem County, had proposed to build 88 apartments targeted to disabled veterans and also including other people with special needs.  As the Inquirer reports:

[The apartments’ developer] found an old factory building to serve as the site. He sat down with municipal officials, who had solicited him to do the project initially and to negotiate financing. In all, he said, he poured close to $750,000 into buying the property and paying fees for consultants, architects, and engineers.

But now a deal that seemed like a win-win has fallen apart, and a bid to boost housing for the needy in this town of 8,000 just across the Delaware River from Wilmington is on hold – if it happens at all.

First, the developer sued the town in Superior Court. Then last week, a decision issued by the state Department of Community Affairs effectively protected Carneys Point from legal claims that it was not providing a realistic opportunity for affordable housing, as Bibeau’s company contends.

So let’s review what happened here. A developer of apartments for disabled veterans tries to work with a municipality – and spends three quarters of a million dollars preparing plans. The municipality, reacting to some neighbors who don’t want the disabled veterans nearby, says no.

And Gov. Christie backs up – the anti-veteran neighbors.

Not the disabled veterans.

Not the developer who is ready to go with creating jobs and homes.

No, apparently it is most important to Gov. Christie to grant a municipality that wants disabled veterans out the license to exclude – even if that means keeping more of our injured combat veterans on long waiting lists.

This is the terrifying logical result of Gov. Christie’s position that “municipalities should be able to make their own decisions on affordable housing,” come hell or high water.

If there’s a vocal group of neighbors who don’t want disabled vets living next to them, the Christie Administration says – go ahead and place their complaints over the service of our veterans. Even if the legal gyrations necessary to justify that position are, well, quite twisted, as they were in this case (the decision from Grifa was a simple two page letter which failed to address in any substance the facts at issue or the need for veterans housing).

You haven’t heard the end of this one. Because the need for homes among disabled veterans – especially in South Jersey – is great. And it’s just wrong to shut down homes that a private developer proposes to serve that need – especially when New Jersey is desperate for good construction jobs.

Stay tuned…

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