Letter to the Editor: The Township Listens

To the Editor:

As I continue to attend meetings at the Township, I am learning how our local government works. There are a lot of complex issues that the township committee and planning board have to work through and it’s been helpful to be at those meetings to hear the information first hand and witness the process.

One of the most important aspects of the process is the ability for the public to approach the podium and comment on the topic at hand. When public comments are constructive and informed, it helps the committee and board to understand the impact of their decisions on the people who will have to live with the results. Even when the comments aren’t so constructive, the township committee and planning board listen. I applaud their patience.

Most recently, there were some ordinances for the redevelopment of the Zaitz tract (the property behind Shop Rite) that were revised as a direct result of valuable public comments.

Remember, by order of the State Supreme Court, Hopewell Township is required to provide an opportunity for a certain number of affordable housing units to be built. The Township Committee has diligently considered all available options and taken a decision that balances the need to comply with the law with the cost to us tax payers for engaging in costly high-risk litigation that may take years only to result in a worse outcome.

The Township Committee and Planning Board continue to work hard to mitigate the impact of this requirement wherever possible. The revised 2017 housing plan for this property calls for 379 units (market and affordable) — a 25 percent reduction 2015 plan, which called for 500 units. This reduction was made possible because of the constructive comments our neighbors made at multiple public hearings where they voiced concerns over traffic and the potential impact on the character of the neighborhood given the original plan.

The Township Committee continues to listen in 2018. It already has held two special public information and listening sessions for nearby residents, listened to hours of public input at multiple Township Committee meetings, and asked the Planning Board for additional input and improvements during its March 1 review. The result:

  1. Alternate ways to get in and out of the site will be studied along with a host of other traffic improvements both on site and surrounding.
  2. Setback requirements also will be increased and building heights restricted near existing residences.
  3. Extensive landscaping and other buffering in and around the proposed development also will be required.

And, as the process moves forward, the Planning Board will also be requiring in-depth studies on water and storm water management, traffic and other potential impacts as part of its site plan review.

In all, your Township Committee and Planning Board made more than 15 significant adjustments to the Zaitz tract redevelopment plan because of your constructive and informed comments.

When the community speaks, there is ample evidence that everyone on the Township Committee not only listens but also takes swift action wherever possible to address our concerns.

Helena Bouchez

Brandon Farms

Hopewell Township

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