To the Editor:
When I walk into the auditorium for a Township Committee or Planning Board meeting, it’s clear to me that there is one thing that unites everyone in that room and it is our love of this awesome place called Hopewell Township. I know I love this place and want to do everything I can to preserve its beauty.
The problem is not everything is within my control,or within the control of the Township Committee or Planning Board, for that matter.
Sometimes, external circumstances force us to change in ways we’d rather not, for reasons we may or may not agree with. The Affordable Housing mandate is once such external circumstance—a mandate from the State Supreme Court.
And so now, the best thing we can do is to focus our attention on the situation at hand. We must acknowledge once and for all that the Township Committee and Planning Board are not in a position to determine if there should be Affordable Housing in Hopewell Township or how many units there should be. That has been decided. Thus, further discussion of that part of the issue is not in our best interests. The issue now at hand is how Hopewell Township will comply with this mandate, which must be done because it is required by law.
My direct experience with the people on the Committee and the Planning Board is that they care deeply about this Township and are doing their best to make the very best choices possible given the circumstances and constraints they must work within. They also are doing their best to include the community in the conversation wherever possible. For example, in addition to actively considering feedback from the community received at scheduled meetings, the Township Committee already has held one public information session and has scheduled another one for March 8, specifically to listen to the concerns of residents before making any decisions—decisions that must reside within the constraints of rules they have been given.
Also important to note: when the preliminary plan was developed in 2015, the public also was actively involved. The plan was discussed at multiple meetings over 6+ months between the Planning Board and the Township Committee who then built on those interactions with extensive public outreach and engagement. In fact, the court said that Hopewell Township had the most open process in the county, if not the state.
Given these conditions, I urge us as a community to be as constructive as possible in the comments and feedback we provide to our committee and board members, and to look for ways we can add value to this process, as we walk through this challenging time of change in the place we all love, together.
L. Helena Bouchez