Hopewell Borough December meetings

Hopewell Planning Board

The Hopewell Borough Planning Board met on December 7 to approve several vouchers and hear requests for Certificates of Appropriateness at 28 Hart Avenue, Hopewell Presbyterian Church, and 8 Ege Avenue. 

Alison Baxter of the Historic Preservation Committee recommended approval of all three certificates, and the Board approved all three. 

The request at 28 Hart Avenue was for “the construction of two dormers on the rear westerly side of the house,” and an attic space that will be finished as a recreation room. 

The Hopewell Presbyterian Church is removing non-historic, closed off doors. Partial stained-glass windows above will be salvaged and reconstructed to match the existing stain glass that, according to Baxter, is part of a larger project in which the church has restored all of the stained-glass in the sanctuary. Baxter said that in a stroke of luck, an interior wall was uncovered during the renovation that retains the original brick, and the church intends to fill in the gap left by the removal of the doors with the matched brick. The original brick that was used is no longer manufactured. 

A garage will be replaced at 8 Ege Avenue using the same footprint as the existing garage. According to Baxter, the roof will be three feet higher and contain a loft, but it will not be two-story as originally proposed. The stucco and columns will match the home, and the single car garage will have carriage doors. 

Hopewell Borough Council

Proposal for gas hook ups on Washington Ave.

At the Council meeting December 15, resident Gary Milchanowski appeared with a proposal that would allow the four residents on Washington Avenue to have natural gas hook-ups at their homes, including his. It would require some construction to the road on Greenwood and traffic remediation for two days. Milchanwoski said that PSE&G would repair the road after installing the gas lines. 

Mayor Paul Anzano asked if the residents were in a position to get the gas line installed two years ago when the road was restored on Greenwood. 

Milchanwoski said that at that time, the cost was exorbitant. 

Council President Sky Morehouse said that it was the ultimate frustration to cut up new pavement and that it would lead to potholes and complaints. 

Councilmember Debra Stuhler questioned how the Council could hold the utility accountable to the Borough’s standard of road construction. 

Councilmember David Mackie said that he felt that the Council needed to see more concrete plans from both the residents and the utility before approving the request. 

“We’re going to deny the request tonight. Come back to us with information from the utility before the next meeting,” said Anzano. 

Pedestrian, Bicycle and Safety Advisory Committee

Next, Brad Evans, Secretary of the Pedestrian, Bicycle and Safety Advisory Committee, or PBSAC, said that the committee was prepared to present the first phase of an action plan for all Mercer County maintained roads in Hopewell Borough. He said that the plan maintains all parking spaces. He said that highlights from the plan were gateways projects, refuge islands, curb extensions, extending speed limit reductions to the end of town, better signage, and flashing school zone lights at the elementary school crosswalks. 

Anzano said that the PBSAC should proceed with email exchanges with the Council before presenting the final recommendations in the January meeting so that the public has time to provide feedback. 

Evans asked if the suggestions could go on the Borough’s website for the public to view, but the Council members were concerned because the suggestions had not yet been approved. 

“How can we get feedback if residents can’t see it?” asked Krista Weaver, Council member.

The Mayor said that he would have to check with Michele Hovan, Borough Administrator. 

Weaver asked, “When does it go up on the website?” 

“I don’t know,” responded Mayor Anzano. 

Councilmember Ryan Kennedy thanked the PBSAC for the “phenomenal” work they have done. 

Next, the Council approved the hiring of Margaret “Maggie” Schmitt as the new Hopewell Borough Administrator beginning March 1, 2023 at a salary of 125K. 

Schmitt, who attended the meeting, said that she looked forward to working with the Council and residents in Hopewell Borough.

Public Comment 

Heidi Wilenius, resident and local business owner, said during the public comment section that the Council seemed to be asking the PBSAC to seek public comment on their suggestions, but the council doesn’t want to put it on the website. Wilenius asked the board to find a vehicle for such information so that there was not a two-month delay in it reaching the public in the future. 

Kurt Reynertson approached the board during the public session about dead trees on CSX dropping large branches on a workshop on his property. He said that he had tried several avenues to reach CSX, including talking to an employee that he saw on the tracks. He has tried the emergency line and even reached out on social media, but he has not received a response. 

The Council was unable to assist the homeowner with local ordinances, because CSX is federally regulated. 

Anzano suggested: “Let your home insurance know, because if something happens, they have resources to sue CSX.”

Reynertson said he has contacted his home insurance, and they can sue for hospital bills if he gets crushed. He said that it is nothing to CSX if a tree falls on his shed, but that he was hoping that the Borough would be able to enforce an ordinance on the books pertaining to nuisance trees. 

Liaison Reports 

Stuhler announced that Hopewell Borough will no longer be using Montgomery Health Department and Animal Control, and will now be using Hopewell Township for those services. The Recreation Committee is on track to get out the recreational flier at the beginning of the year. The Shade Tree Committee is working on concerns that the trees that they have purchased are not being planted in a timely enough manner, and that it does not match the speed at which the Borough is losing trees. 

Mackie said that the water was still testing at acceptable levels. 

Morehouse said that the local emergency services had suffered a tremendous loss in the sudden and unexpected death of Heather Varrasse. He said that in March of 2023 the entire Pennington EMT would be closing. The Township will be contracting with a paid ambulance service “to plug the hole.” He said one of the biggest challenges facing emergency services was an antiquated website. The local fire departments and EMT services are in need of volunteers. Morehouse said that volunteers are also needed to provide services like website design and help with the social media effort for recruitment. 

Anzano said that he would like to introduce the 5G small cell concealment tower ordinance at the January meeting. 

The next Hopewell Borough Planning Board meeting is January 11.
The next Hopewell Borough Council meeting was January 3 and the article for that will be coming out shortly.

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