To the Editor:
When the Hopewell Township Committee in late July adopted the land use and development ordinance that meets affordable housing requirements, Republican Committee Member John Hart dismissed it as “a builder’s remedy.” Mr. Hart knows that is false.
Following the 1975 New Jersey Supreme Court Mount Laurel affordable housing decision, some developers successfully mounted court challenges against non-compliant towns, resulting in “builder’s remedies” that take power away from communities. In a builder’s remedy, it is the developer’s profit plan that drives affordable housing decisions, not local elected officials, professionals, and citizen volunteers on planning and zoning boards.
Courts seldom rule against builder’s remedies, resulting in such developments as the The Hills in Bedminster, a 4,000 unit complex that doubled the population of that town.
After the New Jersey Superior Court took control of local affordable housing compliance in 2015, the Democratic majority on the Hopewell Township Committee wisely negotiated a settlement that requires 500 fewer total housing units than anticipated at the start of the negotiation.
The land use and development ordinance adopted in July meets our negotiated obligation while protecting local land use management powers. Developers are still required to meet high Township environmental and economic impact standards, subject to review in public decision-making forums like the Planning Board.
The July ordinance is, in other words, the opposite of “a builder’s remedy.”
Misleading rhetoric like Mr. Hart’s, expressed as personal feelings rather than respect for facts, works against responsible local solutions to challenges like our Mount Laurel obligations. For a better future for Hopewell Township, I urge voters to choose Democrats Kristin McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning for Township Committee on November 5.
(The writer was a 2004-2009 Member of the Township Committee and the Planning Board)