To the Editor:
Thank you to MercerMe for giving us the opportunity to answer questions about local issues for the 2022 Township Committee race. We would like to take this opportunity to answer the questions posed to us by our opponents.
The first question was “Do you think it is beneficial for the township to have a politically diverse township committee?”
We absolutely believe that diversity on the Township Committee is an asset. Diversity of experience and opinion is critical in any decision-making body, and that kind of diversity is much more important than any political party label. The five members of the Committee all have had very different life experiences and hold different political views on many issues. Many times we thoughtfully and respectfully disagree on a variety of topics, and we often approach problems from very different perspectives.
We live in all areas of the Township, from Brandon Farms, to Elm Ridge Park, to off Scotch Road, to Harbourton. We are different ages, races, and religions. Among us we have children that are in preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, as well as adult children who are grown and out of the house. We have lived all over the country and the world, yet we all have chosen to plant our family roots right here in Hopewell Township, and we all are committed to working hard to keep this beautiful community one that welcomes everyone. This diversity of experience, perspective, and viewpoint serves residents of the Township well.
The second question incorrectly stated that I (Courtney) was on the Township Committee when decisions were being made about the affordable housing settlement. I was elected in 2019 and sworn in on January 2, 2020. The unanimous, bi-partisan settlement agreement was finalized in 2017. In our answers to MercerMe, we both at length explain that affordable housing is a moral and a legal obligation in New Jersey, and that our focus now has to be on the implementation of that settlement agreement. We both also feel it is critical to make our community a welcoming place for our new neighbors.
The question went on to allege that the current sites were approved “with very little regard for the environment.” This is false. Not only do we have the endorsement of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters for our record of environmentalism, but there was a great deal of care and concern for the environment taken in both the settlement agreement and in the Planning Board approvals for the neighborhoods currently under construction.
The environmental protections put in-place met the newest NJ DEP standards, and in many cases, they exceeded current Township requirements. For example, in close collaboration with our partners in local, regional and state environmental groups, we have proactively implemented next-generation stormwater and groundwater recharge systems, secured approval for solar-ready roofs on new residential properties, supported more walkable/bikeable communities, and are enforcing wetlands and stream corridor protections.
The Planning Board reviewed the lighting, plantings, noise, traffic, stormwater management, grading, drainage, soil erosion, tree replacement, and more. Our Township professional staff reviewed and approved each report. The Planning Board itself is made up of Township residents who are experts in a variety of planning disciplines, from engineering to lighting to law to architecture. They carefully review each element of each development, and often require changes, before issuing an approval.
This all has been done in an open and transparent process. All Planning Board meetings are held in public. The full applications, including all reports, for each of the new developments are available on the Planning Board section of the Township website (https://www.hopewelltwp.org/291/Planning-Board).
Again, thank you for this opportunity to respond and to set the record straight. We both truly appreciate the work that MercerMe does to inform the community about critical local issues.
Courtney Peters-Manning and David Chait
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