The Future Planning Committee, advising Hopewell Valley Regional School District Superintendent Tom Smith, met for the fourth time last night to learn about real estate development prospects and trends in Hopewell Township in an effort to better understand demographic factors influencing numbers of school age children in HVRSD elementary schools.

As MercerMe has reported, Smith convened the advisory committee after holding a series of informational meetings this past winter to discuss enrollment projections and the resulting impact on district schools. The committee is charged with providing a recommended plan that will be presented to the Board of Education who will then decide whether or not to adopt said plan or take a different approach altogether.

Wednesday’s meeting was open to the public. In addition to the committee itself, two rows of extra seating in the back were filled and left some attendees standing.

Paul Pogorzelski, Administrator/Engineer for Hopewell Township, addressed the group first, frequently referencing a map of the Township highlighting current land areas with development potential.map416

Pogorzelski said that currently 19 residential units are under development in Brandon Farms, 180 affordable units are proposed for a tract of land behind Shop Rite Supermarket off Reed Road, and 70 units have been approved for development at the much discussed Pennytown tract in Hopewell.

Two other areas that could one day be potential development targets are the Kooltronic site in Hopewell and the 1200 acres of land opposite the Merrill Lynch campus off Scotch Road. The Kooltronic development is pending for a number of reasons, including a requirement to balance residential development with preservation of 800-1200 acres of open space. As for the Scotch Road site, California-based developer CF Hopewell has proposed a “live, work, play” development including 1,000 residential units, recreation facilities and shopping that has not met with Township approval.

Pogorzelski urged the planning committee to wait a few months until additional numbers are available regarding the Township’s affordable housing obligation, before incorporating estimates of additional numbers of students who would potentially entering district elementary schools.

Representing Pennington Borough Council, Eileen Heinzel referenced one potential development that could impact Pennington off Rt. 31 above the Straube Center at the site where a sign reads “Future Home of the YMCA.” Instead of the Y, a developer proposes adding 80 townhomes, 32 unrestricted and 32 age-targeted for older adults, as well as 16 considered affordable housing. The possible development would potentially add 20 school-age children to the Boro, information that was previously included in the report prepared by a demographer retained by HVRSD.

Currently there are no areas slated for development in Hopewell Borough.

Following the presentation about potential real estate development, the committee heard from real estate agents Barbara Facompre and David DePaola from the Mercer County Association of REALTORS.

trends416Facompre presented charts and graphs showing real estate trends in Mercer County at large and among Hopewell Township, Pennington Boro and Hopewell Boro. Overall, she said, the market is continuing to get better and, despite the bad weather affecting sales this past March, things are beginning to “come alive now.”

Both realtors noted that the average homes sold in the Township range between $500-$700,000 in price and they see homes turning over from older adults with grown children to younger families with elementary-age or younger children. They both emphasized a steady but modest influx of families with children buying homes in Hopewell Township in general.

So, while there are real estate development projects underway throughout the Township and the real estate market is beginning to bounce back, there does not seem to be cause for concern for a major increase or drop in the number of school age children entering the district in the very near future. All speakers encouraged the committee to continue to “wait and see” how the Township responds to state mandate from the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regarding required numbers of affordable housing.

The Superintendent also asked the committee to plan for their next meeting to move from a date in May to June 4.

MercerMe will continue to follow the meetings and encourages a discourse with readers regarding questions, concerns and thoughts on this issue.