The Hopewell Township Committee met Tuesday and announced progress on a number of pressing issues.
Township Engineer and Community Development Director Mark Kataryniak opened the meeting by noting that the bridge near Jacobs Creek on County Route 546 (Washington Crossing-Pennington Road), which has been closed for repair since August of this year, is expected to be completed by the beginning of December.
Township attorney Steven Goodell then shared an analysis of the current plan in PennEast pipeline’s attempt to dig a route through Hopewell Township. MercerMe’s previous reporting on this issue is here.
“The Third Circuit decision threw a wrench into PennEast’s plans,” said Goodell.
Goodell explained that, because the Court found that PennEast may not condemn state-owned properties along its proposed route, they now have two options: further appeal or a federal property condemnation.
The first option would involve an appeal by writ of certiori to the US Supreme Court, since PennEast’s request for rehearing en banc (for the entire Third Circuit judiciary) was turned down, explained Goodell.
“They [PennEast] may well be filing those papers now,” he said. In fact, as reported by NJBIZ, Anthony Cox, chairman of the PennEast Company Board of Managers announced yesterday the following statement: “The PennEast partner companies are fully committed to the project and will be seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Goodell explained PennEast’s second option would be to try to get someone else to condemn the properties. While the Third Circuit’s opinion ruled that a private entity cannot condemn state-owned property, the Federal government still can do a condemnation, if PennEast is able to convince an arm of the federal government, such as the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to do so.
Mayor Kristin McLaughlin reiterated the Township’s strong opposition to PennEast, and shared that she was in Kentucky recently for an event that included the chair of FERC. McLaughlin, who attended the conference as a representative of Township and State-owned land, shared that there were only two other landowners present but that there were many top executives from the energy industry in attendance.
McLaughlin said that, at the event, she took the opportunity to tell chairs of two energy companies that Hopewell Township objects to the taking of publicly preserved land for the companies’ profit.
“The cudgel they use is that we in the U.S. will not have enough gas to take care of its people. The reality is there were members of the EU there,” said McLaughlin “I have a strong suspicion that if PennEast goes through Hopewell, the gas is going overseas for someone elses’ profit. It was an eye-opening weekend. I was glad to get a seat at the table because that was really unusual.”
The Committee then talked about the two traffic lights in the Township that have become problematic for drivers. One of the lights is at the intersection of Route 31 and Titus Mill Road and the other is at Pennington-Rocky Hill Road and Carter Road in Mount Rose. Kataryniak stated that the State Department of Transportation is working on the one on 31 and that he has reached out to the County regarding the light in Mount Rose and that they will look into it. He explained that sometimes the light’s computer reverts to a fixed time after construction work and then it has to be reset.
In her report, Committee member Julie Blake mentioned it had come to her attention that more than $15,000 exists in a fund from the Township’s share of the sale of the definitive history book about Hopewell Township, “Hopewell: A Historical Geography” by Richard Hunter and Richard Porter, which was first published in 1991. Blake asked Township Administrator Elaine Borges whether the money could be used to rehabilitate the old Hart’s Corner schoolhouse, which stands at the corner of Scotch Road and Rt. 546, and Borges indicated it could. Blake explained after the meeting that she had consulted with the chair of the Township Historic Commission, Maximillian Hayden, and the money would go toward replacing soffits and trim work to keep the schoolhouse from further decay.
Both Committee member Kevin Kuchinski in his report to the Committee and a resident during public comment talked about what they characterized as “too many signs” on Denow. Kuchinski said there are so many signs that, in his opinion, it detracts from its intent of being a safety measure. Kuchinski and Blake agreed to walk and review the area with Kataryniak to make recommendations as to whether some signs can be removed.
The Committee also approved two resolutions that will ultimately move the bus stop at the corner of Route 31 and Diverty Road to the corner of Route 31 and Denow Road.
When reached for clarification, the Mayor explained: “We contacted NJDOT for funding for a shelter for a bus stop. In conjunction with the Police Department, we identified a better location for a bus stop that is currently located just south of Diverty on 31 and will now be moved to the end of Denow where the crosswalk is in place and [we] will be putting a shelter there. In addition, we are continuing to work with NJDOT to find a safe solution that will allow us to also put a shelter at the stop near Shop Rite on the circle.”
The next Hopewell Township Committee will be on Monday, November 18, 2019 at 7pm at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building at 201 Washington Crossing Pennington Road
Titusville, NJ. For details and a copy of the agenda, please see this link.