Home » Hopewell Township Committee meetings deliver double dose of historic preservation and future planning

Hopewell Township Committee meetings deliver double dose of historic preservation and future planning

by Cat Jackson

At its regular meetings on March 25 and April 15, the Hopewell Township Committee discussed several improvements to the Township’s public resources, including improvements to public parks and new educational resources. They also introduced the budget, which will be reviewed at a public hearing on May 20.

Highlights from the March 25 meeting:

Woolsey Park

The meeting opened with a short speech by Hopewell Valley Arts Council representative Carol Lipson, who asked that Woolsey Park event planners be permitted to serve beer and wine. Lipson noted that while special event insurance would be necessary to serve alcohol, it would make events at the park more attractive and enjoyable and bring in extra income from these events. The current Township ordinances do not allow alcohol in Township parks, but the Committee was very receptive to the idea. A new ordinance to allow alcohol would need specific criteria for the types of permitted alcohol and the circumstances of drinking. Township attorney Steve Goodell agreed to look at relevant legislation in nearby areas to begin the process of making similar legislation for Hopewell.

The Woolsey Park Band Shell is complete and will be inaugurated on May 11. Deputy Mayor Uma Purandare stressed that cultural diversity and inclusion are a high priority for the festival and invited all citizens to come and bring their own culture to the celebration. This event will include the first annual Mayors Award to first responders.

Washington Crossing Bridge

The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission has announced the replacement of the Washington Crossing Bridge. Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning wrote to the Commission to raise concerns about the traffic this might bring to Hopewell Township, which is not equipped to handle a large thoroughfare on Washington Crossing – Pennington Road. Peters-Manning reported that the Commission responded that replacing the bridge would be a lengthy process, and nearby townships would be involved in the process.

The 1905 Washington Crossing Bridge is extremely narrow, requiring drivers to exercise caution, yet it is popular because it has no toll and its traffic lights are not used to manage right-of-way; the Rt. 202 New Hope Lambertville Bridge and the Scudder Falls Bridge, both expressways, charge a toll from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Other non-toll bridges include the free New Hope Lambertville Bridge and Trenton’s Calhoun Bridge, both old and narrow. Washington Crossing Bridge is the only DRJTBC bridge that is equipped with traffic lights.

Peters-Manning reported that the anticipated replacement will take place as part of a National Environmental Policy (NEPA) process, which will take a long time and provide plenty of opportunities for public and municipal involvement. She asked that the Commission establish a liaison and provide advanced notice of any meetings on the subject. (The attached resolution was presented at the April 15 meeting to memorialize Peters-Manning’s comments).

Buildings and Grounds

According to Committee Member Kevin Kuchinski, work on the Harts Corner School House continues well. The external structure has been stabilized, and lead paint remediation is progressing nicely; the team is now working on the interior. The Historic Preservation Commission is also reviewing a property in Marshall’s Corner for designation as a historic landmark.

The ongoing drilling at Hopewell Parc, a housing development under construction on Scotch Road, will now take place from 7am to 7pm to prevent nighttime noise.

Plans for the bus shelter on Route 31 in front of the Shoprite are progressing well. Township Administrator George Snyder was able to show the site’s current diagrams to the Committee and members of the public.

Curbside leaf collection began on April 1. Curbside bulk collection is in progress for Zones 1 and 2 and will start for Zone 3 on April 22. More information can be found at www.hopewelltwp.org/179/Bulk-Waste.

The new turf fields at Twin Pines on Pennington-Lawrenceville Road are complete and ready for use. Impact testing was performed at the end of March.

The Township received bids from contractors for the future resurfacing of the basketball court at Independence Park (10 Stephenson Road).

According to James Hutzelman, the Township engineer, the Princeton Farms Inflow and Infiltration Sewer Project is going very well. Historically, the sewage flows at Princeton Farms during peak rainfall have been as high as three or four hundred thousand gallons. Despite very heavy rainfalls in March, he said, the peak was never about 1,300 gallons. Hutzelman added that the work to repair the sewer mainly proceeded without incident, but there is a cracked pipe near Darrow Drive. The weather has been far too wet to reline the pipe. While the crew has tried several noninvasive fixes, opening up the road and replacing the pipe is now necessary, which will require changing the work order.

On March 13, the Hopewell Township Health Department and the Department of Environmental Protection presented on PFAS, or Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These man-made environmental hazards can be found in groundwater and are linked to a variety of health concerns. The presentation and educational material are available on the Township’s website at www.hopewelltwp.org/667/PFAS-Information.

Affordable Housing

In March, Governor Murphy signed new state legislation to formally abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), ceding authority over New Jersey’s affordable housing mandate to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The NJ Supreme Court declared COAH moribund in 2015; since then, the Court system has administered the affordable housing laws. Goodell explained that, following the Court’s 2015 declaration, Judge Mary Jacobson made a ruling in 2018 that defined a formula municipalities must use to determine how many units of affordable housing they are required to allow developers to build. This year’s formal abolition of COAH does not affect this ruling; it merely changes which organization has authority to enforce the affordable housing initiative and hear appeals. DCA will calculate a regional number, which Hopewell Township will have the right to dispute with the AOC when the law comes into effect in 2025.

Elections

Municipal Elections Municipal Clerk Katherine Fenton-Newman has received petitions for the coming year’s primary elections. One Township Committee seat is open, with Democrat Uma Purandare of Brandon Farms running to retain her seat and newcomer Robert Zansitis of Poor Farm Road running for the Republican nomination.

Hopewell Township Police

The Hopewell Township Police Department published its annual report for 2023 on its website. The Department’s new hiring process began on April 1; the Township fully pays for training for new officers. Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning took a moment to relay thanks to the HTPD from the Trenton Police Department after volunteers from the HTPD assisted in a March 16 violent crime case; officers from many municipalities, including Hopewell, assisted in the arrest of a suspected shooter. The Police Department will celebrate its 50th anniversary on June 8.

Highlights from the April 15 meeting:

Snyder reported that the Hopewell Township Fire District rejected all proposals for an Emergency Medical Study they intended to conduct. He said that all of the bids came out dramatically higher than is currently affordable. The HTFD is applying for a $96k grant to cover the study. The Police Department has faced similar woes; it issued a call for proposals to renovate the 911 dispatch center, but all bids were unaffordable.

Committee member David Chait thanked Public Works for their routine hard work. Current projects include hazardous tree removal, roadside drainage, pothole patching, and roadside leaf collection.

Budget

Township CFO Julie Troutman introduced the Township budget. The budget is usually calculated using the actual rate of taxes collected. At the end of last year, several sizeable unpaid tax balances remained. Although these balances have since been paid, the Township elected to use the three-year average instead. We expect a “very comfortable budget for the Township this year,” said Troutman. The budget hearing is scheduled for May 20.

Traffic Safety

Hopewell resident Steve Niederer spoke up during public comment about dangerous driving conditions on Titus Mill Road on the stretch near Wargo Road. Niederer said that drivers ignore recommended speeds on a road that has eroded shoulders, sharp turns, and, in one spot, a poorly marked crossing for the Hopewell-Lawrence trail. Niederer asked the Township to lower the speed limit on this road to make it safer for motorists, pedestrians, and bikers. Hutzleman responded to the comment, saying that a speed study was done about a year ago on Titus Mill Road, but that study did not justify a change in the speed limit. The State standards have since changed somewhat, and it might now be possible to lower the speed from 40mph to 35mph. However, the posted speed limit is not in itself a good indicator of safety since most motorists drive as fast as is comfortable, regardless of the posted speed. Hutzleman proposed that the Township look into increased signage, shoulder maintenance, and traffic calming measures.

Niederer also requested an update about the situation at the intersection between Pennington-Harborton Road and Burd/Scotch Road. The Township has been petitioning the County for increased safety measures at that intersection. The County posted new signage to encourage motorists to be cautious around the intersection, but the visibility is poor and Niederer finds that when the sun is shining down the road, it’s unhelpful. Peters-Manning acknowledged these concerns and assured the public that the Township and County are in communication regarding that intersection. The Mayor recently published an article about traffic measures, which is available here.

Environment

Paul Kinney, chair of the Environmental Commission, came forward during Public Comment to discuss the Board of Utilities Community Energy Plan Grant. This grant has a May 24 deadline and is offered to help municipalities align with the overall New Jersey master plan for clean energy. Participating municipalities can receive free technical assistance, and participation in this program satisfies the prerequisites for future grants. Under this program, Hopewell Township would review existing data to establish a baseline for our energy use and, from there, develop a plan for the next few years. Hopewell and Pennington Boroughs have both applied for this grant. If the Township does as well, all the municipalities can work together to use the funding more effectively. The Committee adopted the resolution during the meeting with the strong support of the Committee members. Deputy Mayor Purandare said: “Since we are going to collaborate with the two boroughs, it will be a valley-wide sustainable planning and renewable energy [initiative] that also will contribute to New Jersey’s carbon neutral initiative.”

All residents must keep all winter road salt in closed, sealed containers. Road salt can damage local freshwater environments.

The next regular meeting, initially scheduled for April 22, is now scheduled for April 29 at 6:30pm.

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