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The Hopewell Township Committee was briefed on an environmental threat to Mercer County, and also faced public criticism at its October 9 meeting.

Nora Sirbaugh, member of the Hopewell Township Environmental Commission gave a detailed presentation about the threat of the spotted lanternfly in New Jersey, specifically Mercer County. Three counties in the state are under quarantine including Mercer, Warren, and Hunterdon.

“They are everywhere and they are a very aggressive insect,” said Sirbaugh. “This is like our worst nightmare come to pass.”

The spotted lanternfly was said to have been found in Pennsylvania first and to have traveled to New Jersey via cars and trucks. The bug feasts on trees of heaven, but also is known to eat others, such as peach, apple, and grape trees. In Pennsylvania, $87 milion in apples, $28 million in grapes, and $19 million in peaches are at risk with the spotted lantern fly attacking the trees.

Residents are urged to check for the bug when traveling, and look for their eggs, which can sometimes resemble mud. If noticed, the eggs are to be scraped off the surface they are on, put into a plastic bag with bleach, and then thrown away.

“If you see it, kill it. That’s really the message,” Sirbaugh said. “I feel somewhat disheartened by this but, at the same time, I have great faith in the resilience of nature.”

After about two hours, the Committee opened up the floor for general public comment.Residents were not pleased, and they made sure to say that. Aside from that frustration, other residents were upset by tax issues and also affordable housing.

“It is a fact that this PILOT is allowing you to steal, and I do not believe that is too strong a term, ninety-five percent of those tax dollars that are coming from Zaitz with five percent going to the county,” said former mayor Harvey Lester. “The taxpayers, the rest of us, are going to have to pick up for the tax break that you are giving a multibillion dollar corporation and developer.”

But Mayor Kevin Kuchinski did not sit idly by and take the criticisms, but rather defended himself and fellow Committee members.

“It’s really disappointing that someone is trying to undermine the public good and responding in such a viscerally angry manner,” said Mayor Kuchinski.

The Committee also adopted two ordinances, one involving the Hopewell Township Housing Element and Fair Share Plan, and the other relating to repairs to Woosamonsa Road. They also conducted a work session surrounding the revision of the no-knock ordinance to include a registry for the residents living in senior communities in Hopewell Township.

The Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for October 22 at 7pm.

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