Hopewell Borough Council
The Hopewell Borough Council’s regular March meeting began with a meet-and-greet with new Borough Administrator Maggie Schmitt. Schmitt replaces Michele Hovan, who recently retired from the position. Schmitt and Regina Toth, Borough Clerk, took oaths of office as the meeting began.
Steve DeCosta of Greater Mercer Transportation presented information about the Safe Routes to School Program for Hopewell Elementary School.
“Hopewell has been one of my favorite towns to walk through; Hopewell is already very walkable,” said DeCosta.
DeCosta recommended improvements such as gateway treatments and rapid flash beacons to improve safety for pedestrians. He said that funding for the changes could be applied for from the Safe Routes to School program.
Next, Judith Robinson, a native plant garden designer, proposed that the Council hire someone to plan and design a gardening theme that would provide congruency throughout town. The plants at the new entryways, in public flower pots lining Broad Street, and at the parks should share a design that ties them together, she suggested.
Robinson also said the colors, fonts, size, and verbiage of signs at each entryway should, “create an energy that captures Hopewell.” She indicated that the state of New Jersey has resources available for such projects, and pointed out a large grant that Princeton had received for beautification.
While some Council members expressed concerns about maintenance, especially about deer eating the plants, other members of the public expressed enthusiasm. Heidi Wilenius, chair of the Economic Development Committee suggested that the EDC and other Borough Committees get together to create a formal proposal.
The Council then approved the renovation of the Department of Public Works (DPW) facility. The DPW will now have a garage to house them, because previously they were working with wet feet when it rained. A new salt storage bin was part of the approval. Council member Ryan Kennedy explained that a surplus of road salt remaining after the mild winter now in Borough storage could be used in future years.
When the Council opened the floor for public comment, Jon McConaughy, owner of Double Brook Farm near Hopewell Borough, gave an emotional statement about the Council’s rejection of the proposal to allow Brick Farm Tavern to subscribe to the Borough’s sewage service.
“Business does not have a say in what goes on in the town. You’re not business-friendly,” said McConaughy, who urged the Council to change its bylaws to allow business owners eligibility on boards and committees.
McConaughy said that, despite being the largest employer in the Borough, despite having the largest store, despite changing the face of Broad Street, that when a problem arose with his septic tank, the Borough was against allowing the tavern to hook-up to the sewer service. He said that the County and Department of Environmental Protection said the Borough was the entity against the proposal.
“I hope that at some point, you start to embrace business,” said McConaughy
Council member Samara McAuliffe said the Green Team was exploring best practices for organic waste. They are considering different options, such as drop off points at elementary schools, subsidizing rates for community members for home pick-up, and composting at home. She said the goal was to come up with really specific recommendations over the next two months. Council member Krista Weaver suggested to McAuliffe that perhaps the Borough could offer discounted composting bins to residents.
Council member Debra Stuhler said the Board of Health Meeting had orientation for new members. The Shade Tree Committee was considering hiring people to plant trees. She said fifty trees have been removed from the Borough and, now that the mass death of the Ash Trees was coming to an end, it was time to replant.
Council member David Mackie said the amendments to the remediation plan allows for the possibility of selling the water system.
Weaver reported that the PBSAC has completed a survey of Hart and Greenwood, and that Model, Colombia, and East Prospect were next. She said that the committee had met with the engineer who had no objections to their resolutions. She said that it was time to have a conversation with the County to leave enough time to apply for grants from the Delaware Valley Regional Development Committee, which have an April deadline. Weaver finished her liaison report with news that she had also reached out about a potential firearms safety program in the Borough that focused on safe storage.
Kennedy reported that he has added a link on the Borough website for resources available to senior citizens. He said that there is free or almost free transportation for senior citizens to appointments through an Uber-like program.
Morehouse said the local Fire and EMT are still in need of volunteers in various positions. He also commented that the words of Jon McConaughy had not landed on deaf ears. “We fully understand what Jon is saying,” said Morehouse. He said it wasn’t easy to add people outside the service area to the sewage system, and that it opened up the Borough to a whole new contract. He said it was not easy, and it was very technically involved.
The Planning Board was asked to approve a certificate of appropriateness for a two and a half story addition with porch to the left side of 93 West Prospect Street.
Allison Baxter, member of the Historic Preservation Commission, said that the home was constructed in 1906, and that the addition followed all the details of the original house. She said the addition would include a mudroom on the first floor and a second floor bathroom.
“It’s a beautifully-done addition and exactly what we want,” said Baxter.
The Board approved the certificate of appropriateness.
An applicant for a new construction on 61 Princeton Avenue asked the Board for a new variance after a driveway change slightly increased impervious coverage. After being approved by the Borough Planning Board, the applicant had to “wrangle” with the Mercer County Planning Board about site plans. The County said the driveway in the original site plan was too close to a driveway at Hopewell Elementary School.
The plans for construction were approved in 2019, and under the stormwater management guidelines at that time, the construction would have still met the requirements for impervious coverage, but stormwater management had since been revised. The Board approved the new site plans and ordinances.