To the Editor:
The township’s population growth reflects an active history. The census reveals a major growth spurt between 1950 (pop. 4,731) and 1970 (10,030), a 212% increase. You can see these changes throughout the township, with sub-divisions in Elm Ridge Park, Princeton Farms, and the Washington Crossing Estates, and the new High School and Junior High and the Elementary School at Bear Tavern.
The 2000 census (16,105) shows growth driven primarily by the additional development in and around Brandon Farms, with the new elementary school at Stony Brook, and major additions at existing schools. The 2010 census reflects a calming of that growth, 17,304 and a 2016 estimate of 18,513. Hopewell Township’s new Master Plan in 2000 contributed significantly to that calming.
Past increases will pale in comparison to the changes wrought by the township’s decisions to allow 2,881 new market-rate homes to be built in the southern tier. From my analysis last week, which the township did not meaningfully challenge at their June 25 meeting, those 2,881 market-rate homes will add approximately 9,500 people within eight years, bringing Hopewell Township’s population above 26,000, a 40% increase. Add in the new 653 affordable housing units and we are looking at a total population well over 27,000, a 45% population increase.
It is obvious that such population growth will generate massive tax increases, but the township tried to minimize the impending change at their last meeting. When asked about the assumptions that I used in my last letter, Mayor Kuchinski and Deputy Mayor Blake responded that they had not read it. Nonetheless, they had counter-arguments at the ready.
Committeewoman Blake stated that the schools currently have excess capacity and can accommodate some new students without incurring large costs. True enough, but disingenuous. 3,745 new students from those 2,881 new market-rate homes will not represent incremental change. With an average $17,800 cost to educate every student in this district, we are looking at $53 million in additional school costs, to say nothing about the massive school expansion that will be required.
Mayor Kuchinski added that the Scotch Road build-out may be delayed owing to its infrastructural costs. Perhaps, but this Township Committee must still bear the lasting responsibility for having authorized massive new development there without having brought the process before the public. In my experience, developers all find a way.
Mayor Kuchinski and Committee member McLoughlin met with state officials regarding proposed legislation on affordable housing. In decades past, Township Committee members would have camped out down there to press for essential change. But this committee has allocated no monies to press the state. Professionals are not being directed to engage the effort.
Committeewoman Blake still likes to emphasize that the township is spending on litigation to block yet more development. Bravo on that, but the real point is they are unwilling to contribute to the fight against the impact of the court-imposed affordable housing mandate at the state level. Their approach remains penny wise and pound foolish.