A date and topic of content is still being discussed by the planning board for the next special meeting of Hopewell Borough’s master plan re-examination.
The planning board recently completed its first informational session about the master plan re-examination on Jan. 27, which included a brief presentation by Borough Planner Joanna Slagle, who broke down the municipal planning, the master plan and the reexamination process.
The first in what will be a series of meetings was designed to serve as an introductory session to the process for residents and refresher for planning board members. Most of the evening discussion involved back-and-forth questions and answers among planning board members, professional staff and community residents regarding future redevelopment of the borough.
Hopewell Borough Planning Board Chair Peter Macholdt said the planning board would be discussing the issue of the next date and what the meeting content will be within the next few weeks.
“I was very happy with this first session,” he said. “We are very excited to have the community involved in our master plan re-examination. In the borough, we do not generally have much community participation in regular planning board business, so I was also pleased with the number of Zoom participants on Jan. 27.”
Macholdt said that as far as growing the number of participants, the planning board will continue to welcome anyone who is interested in participating.
“If that number grows, great, but I think the whole board was pleased with the level of interest shown at this meeting (referring to Jan. 27),” he added.
For the kickoff meeting, a range of topics were discussed from what are the planning issues facing the borough to requests to cover the various zones (e.g. residential and business/residential zones) to a vision being developed for Broad Street.
Resident Beth Miko said, “Maybe one of the meetings could be going over the different zones that we have, what the borough’s requirements are in those zones as per density or business vs. retail, and then we can have a discussion on what we think those characteristics of those areas would be.”
Councilman Ryan Kennedy responded to Miko’s suggestion by saying this is the chance to look to see if the rules make sense, should there be different applications of a rule depending on where you are or what the density of the building should be.
“Not just the existing zones, but we have been talking about some of the business areas tonight in the back-and-forth. The B-R business zone stretches all the way down Broad Street and a couple other places,” Kennedy said. “Is it appropriate to split those into a couple types of B-R zones with different densities or should we be looking at infilling parts of zones that are not included? This is our chance to look at those rules.”
During the discussion, resident Meridith Mokriski said she was shocked at the desire for development.
“Hopewell is a beautiful small town. I miss the days when you used to be able to play in the street, because there was a quarter of the cars. Why do we want development? Hopewell is perfect the way it is and it always has been,” she said.
Kennedy said they all share Mokriski’s love of Hopewell, but “I think some of us approach this process that every owner of property has the the right to do something with it. They can build something different, they can tear their houses down, change it from the B-R zone from residential to commercial and this process is our way of putting the town stamp on what people who own property do.”
He added, “This is our way of having the community have a say in how people change their properties. We could do nothing and let people essentially do whatever they want with their property and they may not be as you are and want to keep their property as is. But the more we have community participation in updating these plans the more the community has a say.”