The Hopewell Borough Council held its first in-person meeting in two years on April 7. Meetings had been strictly virtual since the beginning of the pandemic. A hybrid meeting style that gives the public the option to attend meetings either virtually or in-person is being piloted. 

At the meeting, the Council increased water rates for the third year in a row. Councilmembers discussed how the community may not realize that the Borough is buying a large quantity of water from New Jersey American Water at an above-average expense. Because Hopewell Borough is such a small service area, the water qualifies as a more costly emergency rate as opposed to a standard rate. 

“We’ve been cut down to one production well in the Borough. The best mechanism we can do as a community is not use as much water,” said Sky Morehouse, Council President. 

Councilmember David Mackie said that three existing wells that used to service the Borough have had to shut down due to natural chemical compounds that are too expensive to treat, and that the Borough continues to invest in finding other wells to open in order to reduce the reliance on outside water sources. He said that a geologist was continuing a well investigation and testing at a potential new well site. 

The Council approved the sale of General Improvement Bonds. According to Administrator Michelle Hovan, the bond sale is a part of a plan that will help pay down the town’s debt. 

The Council put the finishing touches on an ordinance to allow cannabis businesses to operate within Hopewell Borough. The town does not have an ordinance that permits any type of manufacturing, therefore cannabis manufacturing was not an option. 

“The most logical use is retail in the first place,” said Michelle Hovan, Hopewell Borough administrator.

The Council voted in favor of an ordinance for a retail-only cannabis business to operate in Hopewell Borough, and a public hearing for the ordinance will be held at the June 2 Council meeting. Residents can attend the meeting to voice support or concerns about the ordinance at this time. 

Heidi Wilenuis of 92 West Prospect spoke during the public session to announce that the Hopewell Harvest Fair will be returning this year in September with new co-chairs Heather Kumar and Joshua Rosenstock. Volunteers are still needed to make the return of the event a success. 

Kumar and Rosenstock, of 28 Morris Drive, also thanked the board for creating an ordinance for retail Cannabis sales in the Borough. Rosenstock is a medical marijuana patient who has epilepsy. Kumar said that marijuana can be used medicinally for a number of ailments, and the sale of recreational marijuana gives easier access to all the people who have a medical need who do not have the resources to go through the process of getting a prescription.

Jim Waltman, Executive Director at the Watershed Institute, of 33 Columbia Avenue, addressed the Council about the upcoming plastic bag ban in New Jersey. “The goal is for people to buy reusable bags. To help with that transition, The Watershed has purchased several hundred bags. We have 50 bags that we would like to donate to the Borough tonight and hundreds more on the way.”

Boardmember Samara McAullife reported that the Hopewell Valley Green Team was working with the high school to host a Repair Cafe and Decarbonizing Home event. She also said that the Recreational Flier is being updated online to include the local events that were not printed in the paper flier mailed to residents. 

Morehouse wanted to remind the public that the Hopewell Library is up and running. Mayor Anzano said the Hopewell Library will soon be selling a Hopewell board game similar to Monopoly featuring local streets and businesses, and that local businesses have been very supportive of the fundraiser. 

Kennedy said that the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Safety Advisory Committee was pleased with the State’s new Safe Passing Laws requiring vehicles to give bicyclists four feet of distance when passing, and the committee is brainstorming ways to increase public awareness about the new law. The committee is also meeting with the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Authority to collect data about how children get to school. 

Kennedy said Cruise Night was returning on May 6. He said that the “no parking” signs placed on Broad Street in preparation for Cruise Night are not marked clearly enough with the dates and times for motorists. Often the signs are placed days in advance, and can cause confusion for customers to local businesses. Kennedy recommended designing signs exclusively for Cruise night. 

Wilenuis, owner of the local boutique, Dandelion Wishes, said that the signs are put up several days in advance, and that the dates and times on the “no parking” signs can only be read by walking up to them. She said it does cause the business community to lose business. 

Hovan said only official police department signs can be enforced through ticketing, thus signs designed specifically for Cruise Night would present a legal issue. She said that the police have brand new signs that will make a difference in visibility, so parking signs should not be an issue for local businesses during Cruise Night. 

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