To the Editor,
As the election season draws to a close, I want to respond to a few issues raised over the last few weeks.
First, the affordable housing plan, which was recently approved by the court, giving us protection from builder’s remedy lawsuits, is one that has been developed over multiple planning boards and township committees. While the original plan from 2015 included nearly 1300 affordable units, the placement of those units on Scotch Road and at the Zaitz tract was essentially the same. With diligent negotiation, the current plan has only 653 units and many of those are age restricted. The supportive commercial development on Scotch Road will reduce our reliance on residential property taxes and give the employees of Capital Health and the Meryll Lynch complex, as well as the residents of those areas, services that they need. The plan meets our constitutional mandate, and is better than the earlier versions.
Second, from 2013-2015, the rate of tax increases was unsustainably high – nearly 6% year over year. Even when one accounts for some very unusual expenses in 2015, our current spending is nearly $2 million lower than that high point. Our operating budget this year is 3.04% lower than the 2018 budget. We hired some additional help in public works, a friendly face for the front desk, are adding hours to the construction office and were able to upgrade the technical systems in the meeting room so everyone can hear and participate more easily.
I talk with the mayors of Hopewell and Pennington Boroughs about additional ways to share services and I lead the discussion on how to keep the senior center functional while we plan for and build the new Senior and Community Center. The construction is under way and I’m thrilled that we will continue to have a place for our seniors to gather, eat and socialize. There are many aspects of our budget that are not under our control, and I am proud that we’ve been able to do more for our residents with less since I was elected.
Third, I will not apologize for asking for security at our meeting when I feel it is necessary. I believe that it is my job to ensure the safety of the public, our incredibly dedicated professionals and the committee. My tenure began with a threat and there have been several instances where tempers got the better of people and raised voices and shaking fists broke the decorum of our public meeting. I simply would never forgive myself if there were an incident that could have been prevented. Everyone deserves to go home at the end of the night.
As I look toward the future for Hopewell Township, I am excited at the prospect of adding to our preserved lands, increasing access to those lands with more trails, seeing the new senior and community center welcome residents of all ages, expanding the events held at Woolsey Park, and helping our business community thrive. We are so fortunate to live in this green, tight-knit community. We made the decision to move here when our children were young because we knew they would thrive here. They have, and I work every day to make sure that the next generation of families has the same opportunity to enjoy this incredible community.
On Nov. 5, vote for the candidates who respect Hopewell’s past, and embrace its future – Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning.