At last week’s Committee meeting, the Hopewell Township Committee continued its discussion on how to divest itself of the Township-owned property commonly known as Pennytown, located at the intersection of Route 31 and Pennington-Hopewell Road in Marshall’s Corner. While the Committee voted on an extension of time for the Planning Board’s review of the Pennytown Redevelopment Plan, Committee member Vanessa Sandom suggested the option of moving toward putting the property up for public auction while it simultaneously progresses with adopting a redevelopment plan.
“We’ve been wrestling with the decision to sell or not for three years now. I feel confident that the underlying zoning is appropriate — it has been appropriate for many many years,” said Sandom.
The Pennytown property, owned by Hopewell Township, was once identified as a potential future site for affordable housing in partial satisfaction of the Township’s constitutionally-mandated affordable housing obligation. While the property was purchased for that purpose, with funds from the Township’s affordable housing trust fund, the Committee has since taken that off the table.
In this context, “redevelopment” is an alternative to parcel rezoning and means “clearance, replanning, development and redevelopment,” as defined by the state’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL). (For the full statute, see N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1).
The Township Committee is now exploring adopting a Redevelopment Plan for Pennytown and sent the plan to the Planning Board for review late last month. For more, check out MercerMe’s coverage in “Redevelopment Plan for Pennytown Reviewed by Hopewell Township Planning Board.”
Upon receipt, the Planning Board has 45 days within which it statutorily must provide a response (for the ordinance, see this link). However, within that time-frame, the Planning Board would have to discuss and make recommendations as to how the recommendations do or do not comply with the Township Master Plan by the August Planning Board meeting. Because of the limited amount of time and that it during the summer, the Township Committee extended the deadline until the September 22, 2016 Planning Board meeting. Then, at the September 26 Committee meeting, the Committee intends to review and vote on the suggested changes and will either adopt or decline to adopt the Redevelopment Plan with all, some, or none of the recommended changes.
“I am in favor of doing things fast but I think we are short changing the Planning Board,” said Committee member Todd Brant. “This could indicate a lack of confidence and takes away the responsibility and belief we have in the Planning Board members. I think they have a right to have a say what is going on in that property.”
But Sandom urged for more flexility. “We would just be providing alternatives for what we may or may not act on after September 26, and it will give us more options,” said Sandom.
Meeting dates (subject to change – check Township website calendar for confirmation):
- August 25, 7PM – Hopewell Township Planning Board meeting
- September 22, 7PM – Hopewell Township Planning Board meeting
- September 25, 7PM – Hopewell Township Committee meeting
Ultimately, the Township Committee decided not to consider any action that would move toward auction at this immediate time and intends to wait for the Planning Board’s review and recommendation before proceeding with determining whether the Committee will adopt the Pennytown Redevelopment Plan.
Stay tuned to MercerMe for updates!