I moved to Monroe Township 16 years ago from East Brunswick because it was more country and a great place to retire after our daughters moved out on their own. This was a town built from almost nothing, relying on Jamesburg for schools.
Through the guidance of then-Mayor Richard Pucci for 20-plus years, officials built it into a great town, a great school system, a great first class library and a great place to bring up a family.
So I ask, what happened? The last year as mayor, Pucci had the master plan updated, changing light industrial zones to overlay zones. An overlay zone is a mixed community of residential and a small amount of commercial.
The misguided Mount Laurel decision by the state Supreme Court forced affordable housing obligations on most suburban communities, including Monroe Township. Originally, only 5 percent of a development had to be affordable housing and the remaining 95 percent was sold at full market rate – look at Fox Meadow in East Brunswick.
Today, it is 20 percent affordable housing and 80 percent full market rate, so all a large developer has to do is claim they are complying with the state Council on Affordable Housing when applying for approval to build family communities.
One huge developer alone is presently building about 500 family units and is looking for approval for 920 mostly family units in the southern part of Monroe Township, where there are already three other family communities being built, each one with well over 100 family units mixed with some commercial on Perrineville Road, Butcher Road and Route 33.
So what do we have today? Very high property taxes; residents young and old are being taxed out of their homes; uncontrolled overbuilding of family communities with total disregard for the negative effects to our quality of life; heavy traffic on local roads and needed expansions of the township utilities.
Now, in defense of the town, the state Legislature does not allow a town to turn down a residential community application solely based on the negative impact on the schools.
Second, the Legislature does not allow a town to ask a developer to contribute to paying for new schools and expansions as a basis to obtain approval to build. So, the developers are the big winners and the township and its residents are the losers.
Our schools and classrooms are overcrowded by more than 1,500 students and well underfunded by the state. We only receive $400 per student in state education aid, well below other districts. We need a new middle school, a new elementary school and a large expansion of our 8-year-old high school.
Mayor Gerald Tamburro, with the help of state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, was able to raise state aid to our school district by $2.5 million, to about $5.5 million, still nowhere enough. Each year the school budget has grown by about $2 million; no help for the taxpayers.
Lastly, once all these developments are built out, local roads like Texas Road in Old Bridge, Route 522 into Jamesburg, as well as Forsgate Drive, Mounts Mills Road, and Applegarth and Perrineville roads will be unbearable during rush hours.
This town has been destroyed by the state Supreme Court and the Trenton Legislature.