Opinion: Affordable housing should be within existing sewer system to lessen environmental impacts

New housing development

We, the undersigned, are eight former Democratic and Republican mayors of Hopewell Township, writing in bi-partisan cooperation and agreement.

Compliance with affordable housing was and remains a key priority for Hopewell Township. Adherence to the Hopewell Township Master Plan is also a key priority. Support for one of these two priorities should not, in our view, come at the expense of the other.

The recent settlement with Deer Valley unfortunately included provision for a significant commercial component, a 100-plus room hotel, a restaurant with drive-through accessibility, a 16-pump gas station just off I-295, and more, all within 200 feet of a major national gas pipeline. Meeting our affordable housing obligations does not require such commercial development.

The settlement with Deer Valley also brought new lands into Hopewell Township’s sewer service area. These were lands designated as VRC (Valley Resource Conservation) in the 2002 Hopewell Township Master Plan. These lands rest at the headwaters of two streams and were originally designated as able to support no more than one house for every six acres.

As significantly, the location of this tract outside the original sewer service area complicates the likelihood of the successful building of affordable housing. A New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approval is now required, as well as approval from the Ewing-Lawrence Sewer Authority (ELSA).

DEP is confirming that these lands on the west side of Scotch Road are environmentally sensitive.

It is well known that although ELSA has excess sewer service capacity, the existing service infrastructure has significant inflow troubles. Repair of these existing facilities would add considerably to the cost of affordable housing in Hopewell Township, and it is most certainly correct that affordable housing should be affordable.

Moreover, the pipeline that brings sewering to Scotch Road crossed I-295 at the Scotch Road interchange and was sized to support Merrill Lynch and nothing more. The Merrill Lynch complex used less sewer capacity than projected, leaving enough for the creation of the Capital Health hospital but not for such additional development.

The Scotch Road interchange was also sized (resolution in 1999) to support Merrill Lynch and nothing more. There is therefore insufficient traffic infrastructure to support the Deer Valley development.

All of Hopewell Township’s affordable housing approvals ought to be made within the previously existing sewer service area to lessen environmental impacts and to increase the likelihood of approvals from DEP and ELSA.

Fran Bartlett
Kathy Bird
Jim Burd
Jon Edwards
Marylou Ferrara
John Hart
Harvey Lester
Mike Markulec
Hopewell Township