Letter to the Editor: The signs may have come down, but the Pennytown issue isn’t over

To the Editor:

For years, Democratic candidates in Hopewell Township got elected by promising to spread the affordable housing burden throughout the township. This promise played well among voters in the southern tier who were understandably unhappy about more dense housing in their area, and the slogan sounded to everyone like basic fairness. Never mind that dense development requires the kind of sewers that are only available in the southern tier, or that affordable housing should be located near markets, jobs, and mass transit.

These Democrats first told us they would place units in barns. That never happened.

Then they purchased Pennytown for $6.5 million right at the height of the real estate boom.

Many of us felt that the site of the former county restaurant was wholly inappropriate.  There was no public sewer service. There were no nearby jobs or markets.  The traffic infrastructure was limited. They spent another $1.3 million in professional fees before it became clear that the site was unsuitable for affordable housing. Permit me to take a few words to say, “We all told you so.”

Imagine spending that kind of public money without proper due diligence.

So, we are left with a $7.8 million boondoggle. That money was needed in our affordable housing fund to enable meaningful options in our round three affordable housing efforts. But that fund currently sits at under $80K, a tiny amount given the enormity of the numbers to which Hopewell Township has agreed. In other words, the Pennytown mistake truly matters.

Add to that the purchase of the Zaitz tract in the southern tier for $5.8 million, only to sell it to the developer for $10K. Yes, that really happened!

The new generation of Democrats promised to sell off the Pennytown property in order to replenish the affordable housing fund. They placed very large signs there to attract a buyer interested in redeveloping the property. John Hart urged that they hire a realtor to assist the effort, but his suggestions were ignored for years. The township sought to sell the land by itself.

For many months, this administration has told us that they had an interested buyer. Then suddenly, the Township’s signs at Pennytown came down. Recent events suggest that their buyer made an unrealistic offer for the property into which the township sunk $7.8 million.

After years of unsuccessful marketing, at their August 27 meeting, they hired a commercial realtor to try to sell the Pennytown property. The Hopewell Township Committee finally agreed with John Hart’s Pennytown recommendation.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this sad, budget-busting saga.

Cheryl Edwards,

Pennington, NJ




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