HOPEWELL: Penny wise and pound foolish

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To the editor:

I oppose the township’s recent agreements to allow to be built 2,881 new market-rate homes. Together with the 653 affordable homes, that is a 50 percent increase in Hopewell Township’s housing stock, which is the equivalent of nearly three Brandon Farms sized developments. That does not make me a racist or a conspiracy theorist. I do not oppose our affordable housing obligation. However, I believe that the township bungled its planning.

I am a concerned citizen. I am not an old-fashioned throwback opposing all change, but rather an advocate of smart growth. I am a proponent of honest, open government, not the secretive proceedings we have recently experienced.

Finally, after five requests for answers, the township committee responded somewhat to my questions

Before Mayor Kuchinski signed the contracts with developers, what alternatives did the township committee investigate? What investigations did they conduct?

At the June 11 meeting of the Hopewell Township Committee, we learned that they simply did not meaningfully examine the possibility of building 100 percent affordable housing on one or two sites, an effort to avoid at least some of the massive, future costs associated with building new market-rate homes. The committee was so intent on avoiding litigation and its costs that they simply capitulated. They were concerned that building 100 percent affordable housing was too expensive and would create an unhealthy housing environment. We know from a 2013 Princeton University study that these claims are wholly incorrect.

The committee is proud that their legal bills were modest, even though they have committed us all to enormous, future property tax increases. They are proud that we will benefit from future court reductions in our affordable housing quota, but they have locked us into the 4:1 ratio and massive increases in market-rate homes.

They claim that alternatives were expensive, but the courts require that all affordable housing be affordable. That principle would have guided all sewer planning.

Did they examine each alternative’s long-term impact on township budgets?

The simple answer is no.

Did they or the school district study the demographic impact of the coming population surge on Hopewell Valley Schools? Once again, the answer is no. They hope that there is room in the schools to accommodate the new students, but even casual estimates show that a massive surge will overwhelm our district.

There’s the old saying, “penny wise and pound foolish.” By signing the contracts with developers, they have obliged us to decades of higher taxes, over-crowded schools, and new expensive services. Their legal savings last year will not long be remembered.

If local Democratic Party spokespersons sincerely want to bring the community together, let them start by understanding why so many people are so upset at secret agreements that will add nearly 50 percent to the housing stock in Hopewell Township, require new schools, accelerate property tax increases, and substantially lower the value of our homes. Our concerns are guided by an abiding love of our town, not by party affiliation, petty racist thoughts, or kooky conspiracies.

Cheryl Edwards

Hopewell Township