Focused on future redevelopment of the borough, the Hopewell Borough Planning Board is holding the first in a series of master plan re-examination meetings next week.
The first session scheduled for Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. is part of a planning board effort to engage the public for input on planning and development within the borough.
“Though our meetings this year need to be via Zoom, and we will miss the in-person contact, the fact that we can allow residents to participate from their homes may provide greater opportunity for outreach in this important endeavor,” Planning Board Chairman Peter Macholdt said. “We also plan to record the meetings where our professionals will be explaining planning concepts – sort of a Master Plan 101 – and they will be available on the borough website for people to review at their convenience.”
The planning board is designing the initial meeting as a way to bring residents into the conversation and explain the master plan re-examination process. Planning Board members and staff will review what the master plan re-examination process is, what kind of issues they will be focusing on and then open up the floor to what kind of issues residents would like to discuss that would develop ideas for future meetings or gatherings.
“The goal of the kickoff conversation is to get people to thinking about the larger issues. Affordable housing is a big one, to make sure people understand all the different aspects of that to some degree the regulatory, but also the importance of it and how it fits into the community,” Councilman David Mackie said. “It has been a few years since we have done our last reexamination and we now have three parcels in town that have designated areas in need of redevelopment. Those are significant from the standpoint of planning.”
He added that larger questions in terms of what type of redevelopment residents would like to see in a general sense regarding new business and housing needs will also be discussed during the series of meetings.
The reason for the meetings and the re-examination stems from recent planning board meetings in late 2020 addressing a proposed commercial retail and restaurant project application at the Castoro property on East Broad Street. During those meetings residents expressed to members of the planning board that they would like to have a public dialogue outside of the framework of a specific application to talk more broadly about planning issues in the borough.
“People were saying that they would like to have these conversations in advance of specific applications and proposals so that they are better equipped to evaluate them instead of being reactive. I think there is agreement on the planning board and borough council on that being a good thing,” Mackie said. “We have not specifically laid out a schedule yet for these meetings and I think we would be closer to figuring that out once we have this initial meeting.”
Rather than talk about specific properties the thinking from the planning board is to talk about the broader issues regarding development within the borough, which includes zoning.
“For example, along along Broad Street we have a mixture of business/residential zoning versus residential, so there are questions about whether we want to make that more uniform,” Mackie added. “What we talked about with this first meeting is having an initial general presentation probably by our planner and a couple planning board members and then our thinking is to open up the floor to the public very early. We are not going to begin with a long presentation.”