To the Editor:
Mayor McLaughlin’s letter to the editor last week should have everyone asking two questions.
First, why did she not mention Hopewell Township’s budget increase this year, under her watch, of 4.68%? The answer is obvious. The increase doesn’t fit into a convenient narrative. She argues that our current leaders have made progress since 2015. That previous increase, of course, owed to the Public Works fire, and at very least, had a well-known cause.
Add to that her passage of PILOTs during her term as Mayor. These “Payments-in-lieu-of-taxes” are now placing burdens on other towns, who are discovering what many of us predicted: that PILOTs greatly increase the burden on schools, who face added school children without any additional tax contributions from the new developments. PILOTs will make Municipal budgets look better, but hurt the overall community, and lead to much higher school taxes for those who live here now.
Second, are Mayor McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning truly stewards of our environment? They like to claim that they support the environment, but their decision to expand the sewer service area in the southern tier into environmentally sensitive lands is wholly inconsistent with the Master Plan. They have voted for new allowable uses on the west side of Scotch Road, including a 16-pump gas station to be located within 100 feet of a natural gas pipeline. That sure does not reflect sound planning or environmental stewardship to me.
Our Master Plan identifies the west side of Scotch Road as environmentally sensitive, in part because the headwaters of two streams are located there. Why is that important? Here’s one reason: building more than 1,000 residences creates significant impervious coverage, worsening downstream flooding. We have all seen new, more extreme weather patterns that have resulted in unusual rainfall events.
We should all be concerned when our elected officials act as if they have not read or do not understand our Master Plan. They so glibly talk about that Plan as a document that was created for a different time. The science has not so significantly changed. If anything, we should be more concerned about overriding known environmental issues.
Faced with the reality of their previous votes on the Planning Board, Mayor McLaughlin and Courtney Peters-Manning consistently change the subject to remind voters of their opposition to the PennEast Pipeline. Of course, Republicans led the charge against the pipeline in 2015 by preventing surveying on Township land and public rights-of-way.
The Hopewell Township Committee will function better with balance that permits a meaningful dialogue. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. I will be voting for John Hart and Ed “Jack” Jackowski, to introduce new ideas, to restore balance on the Township Committee, and to promote constructive discussions on key budgetary and environmental issues.