To the Editor:
At the Township Committee meeting on Monday, January 14, I proposed the idea of providing Hopewell Township residents who rely upon Federal jobs with an opportunity to delay payment of their taxes should the government shutdown continue. My hope is that the shutdown will end soon, but if not, that such action is possible and quickly forthcoming.
At the meeting, we learned that the Township is willing, for any future PILOT agreement, to conduct a cost benefit analysis, but not one administered comprehensively. PILOTs are not simply tools, as Committee Member Kevin Kuchinski put forth. To be more precise, they are controversial tools that were originally designed to help economically distressed areas to attract new investment.
The key is to make sure that the major stake holders, notably the School Board and the Fire District, are given a seat at the table when such cost-benefit analyses are conducted. Bringing them into the discussion was one of the main recommendations of both the Boxer Report and the report from the New Jersey School Boards Association. When such analyses are done, they must be assembled in ways that we all can trust.
Unfortunately, current Township procedures do not permit any meaningful exchange between the public and the committee. And so, simple requests, like having the School Board and Fire District at the table for cost-benefit analysis, must be made gradually over the course of many meetings. Perhaps these letters will provide an added incentive for the Township Committee to make more careful decisions.
The committee tabled Resolution L, a measure that would have endorsed the Redevelopment Agreement for the west side of Scotch Road, the building of more than 2,100 new homes. It is clear to me that they will eventually approve it, but the resolution includes a controversial paragraph that grants to the Mayor the unprecedented (for Hopewell Township) power to make changes to the agreement without consulting the other members of the committee or the public. No developer should ever be able to negotiate potentially million-dollar changes with the accord of just one member of the Township Committee. In our form of government, all Committee members have equal power.
Finally, with all of this new development nearly all in the books, it is time for the Township Committee to take a careful look at Ordinances that govern development. Many were approved more than 20 years ago and, while they represented the cutting edge at the time, advances in science provide more clarity. Twenty years ago, Hopewell Township led the way in passing laws that protected the environment. To remain careful stewards of the beauty of our township, the Committee must instruct its boards and commissions to review and propose upgrades to the laws that govern new development. An obvious example are the storm water regulations that other towns are improving in conjunction with the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.
It’s one thing to allow the development of 3,500 new homes. It’s quite another to ignore advances in science and engineering that can limit to the greatest possible extent the pernicious environmental consequences of these approvals.