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The future of Pennytown, as a site for affordable housing, appears not as set in stone as it once had. At the Hopewell Township Committee meeting last night, developer Conifer LLC requested an extension on its contract with the Township in order for Conifer to identify and propose solutions to engineering issues related to development on the Pennytown site.

Originally purchased by the Township to partially fulfill the Township’s state mandated affordable housing obligations, “Pennytown” located in the Marshall’s Corner area off Route 31, has undergone a near identity crisis. Going from narrowly proscribed affordable community to an expanded 365 unit project potentially including a collaborative mixed-use development, ultimately Hopewell Township decided to develop a 70 unit affordable housing complex.  Last spring, Conifer contracted with the Township to develop the affordable housing complex.

coniferLast night, the Conifer team provided plans with the proposed locations of the well, septic and waste water treatment equipment. According to their calculations, the water demand for 70 units would be 17,000 gallons per day. Conifer tried to assure the Committee that, even with the increased water demand on the area, the adjacent owners would “most likely not be affected.”

Conifer also explained that it would require use of a large amount of the property — a 7-acre drainage field and a 30,000 square foot septic field combined with the building area — nearly absorbing the entirety of the site for this one project.

Further, the well along with a pump house, would require a radial buffer zone prohibiting major improvements to surrounding properties, including on the land privately owned in the vicinity. Within that zone is a historic house that is being auctioned off by the Township to reclaim some of the costs incurred from the project.

committee meetingAs the discussions continued, the major reservation for the Committee was the Township’s affordable housing obligation. Steven Goodell, Township Attorney, cautioned the Committee that they should not ignore their already submitted and certified plan to COAH which includes these 70 units.

“It may be that down the road, we have another place to put it, but we don’t have that now. I don’t say don’t ultimately pull it out but to do it right away would be a mistake,” said Goodell.

He further explained that unilaterally removing this project without an adequate substitution would cause the Township to be non-compliant to COAH. To get your basic affordable housing/COAH info, CLICK HERE. To get the info from the Township’s joint committee roundtable on affordable housing, CLICK HERE.

Based on this information, the Committee decided that it needed to address the issues in a closed session.

“This current plan is substantially different from what our expectations are, and I say this knowing that you have invested a lot of time and money in this. We, as a body, need to adjust our thinking, and there might be a time to reconsider and figure out what this means to us. The best thing we can do, at this point, is to say that we are not going to make a decision to extend until we talk with our professionals,” said Hopewell Township Mayor Vanessa Sandom, as the Committee meeting came to an end to enter into a closed executive session.

If you really love documents, Hopewell Township’s website is the place to be. This is the link to all the Pennytown project documents.

 

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, and a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, photographing mushrooms, and misguided adventures in random hobbies. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), serves on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance, and holds the elected position as the Hopewell Borough Democratic Committee Municipal Chairwoman.

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