HOPEWELL: A low-impact alternative

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To the editor:

There was a low-impact alternative to Hopewell Township’s affordable housing plans

At the March 26 Hopewell Township Committee meeting, Planning Board Member Courtney Peters-Manning stated that the township could not have negotiated a better deal for our court mandated 653 Affordable Housing units. Had we built the units ourselves, she said it would have cost us more than $150,000 per affordable housing unit. How would she know whether we could have negotiated a better deal? By all appearances, we did not even try.

Her quoted estimate of $150,000 (members of the township committee members sometimes quote $250,000) assumes that the township would be responsible for building the sewer infrastructure. But, the township committee fails to point out some important facts:

  1. Hopewell Township paid millions of dollars for the land they just sold for $10,000 to a developer in exchange for a community center.
  2. We could have tried to negotiate with ShopRite for the store’s long sought-after expansion in exchange for ShopRite extending the sewer infrastructure.
  3. The township could have then built the units at cost and not-for-profit.
  4. Hopewell Garden and Project Freedom are existing affordable housing units that the township built without involving market-rate units.
  5. Building our own affordable housing units would have avoided all or most of the 3,534 proposed market rate units and would have greatly reduced the otherwise tremendous impact on schools, taxes, traffic, the environment and stressed neighborhoods.

Also, do the math as one resident did at a recent meeting: $150,000 x 653 units = $97,950,000. The moment you see that number, you know that they are simply trying to scare residents into believing that they had no alternative.

This is what happens when the township enters into agreements in secret, behind closed doors, without involving the public.

The questions that beg asking: did the Hopewell Township Committee negotiate with ShopRite as an alternative to a developer’s solution before they signed the contract with Lennair last June? Did they investigate any other low-impact alternatives? Or did they simply sign a binding contract that will forever change our township? There’s no way to know in the absence of the township committee’s minutes that remain significantly out-of-date.

Cheryl Edwards

Hopewell Township