Letter to the Editor: Reading the Code

To the Editor:

For months, I have explained the case against Hopewell Township’s stand on affordable housing.

I maintain that the township’s misguided approach on Pennytown stripped our affordable housing fund. Without those millions, the township found itself working hand in glove with developers to meet the court’s affordable housing mandate. At very least, the Township ought to have avoided signing or at least challenged the PILOT (Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes) agreement, which provided a huge tax break to developers at the expense of the local School District.

Creating 100% affordable housing in just one area would have significant beneficial effects on the township budget and help to stem the pernicious demographic impact of the 2,881 market rate homes approved by the township.

To place this coming change in perspective, we are looking at a population increase roughly equivalent to three new Brandon Farms developments.  That one development required a new elementary school and expensive expansions at the High School and at the Middle School. Can we extrapolate from this past?

These concerns have been expressed repeatedly by numerous members of the public, but this township committee has paraded forward.  They have ignored the coming demographic change, preferring to talk about the current, limited excess capacity in the schools.

It took months to get them to acknowledge that they did not meaningfully explore the possibility of working with organizations that specialize in creating 100% affordable.

They are bragging about bringing in $3 million a year without in any way acknowledging or confronting the financial impact of a 45% population change, approximately $35 million a year in additional spending (and that does not include the costs associated with building new schools).

When asked about the impact on the schools, they organized a lengthy presentation about how the school district makes its budget decisions, a presentation that side-stepped the question.

Unlike previous Democratic administrations, they appointed a pro-development cheerleader to the Zoning Board.

They had an opportunity before the political campaign began to respond comprehensively.  Time is running out, and they give every indication that they will campaign on a platform that fully ignores these concerns.

Watch Blake’s literature carefully.

“Bringing in $100 million in new revenue” is code for the PILOT agreement that steals money from the School District and which provides huge tax breaks to developers.

“Take no money from developers” is code for it’s OK to take money from the Carpenters’ Union so long as the donor is “a friend.”

“Transparency” is easy to say, but they were a year behind in providing their minutes. Are they planning additional PILOT agreements?  Ask them! What else is lurking out there?

References to the 5% 2015 tax increase ignore the Public Works fire that year.

Remember that the highlight of last year’s campaign were signs that stated “Stop Over Development Here.”  Little did we know at the time that the signs were also written in code.

Their hidden meaning was: Stop Over. Development here.

Cheryl Edwards,

Hopewell Township

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