The Hopewell Township Committee faced harsh criticism from seemingly sudden agenda changes, and passed a historic resolution at its January 28 meeting.
The criticism toward the Committee stemmed from a discrepancy on the agenda for the evening. When first uploaded to the Hopewell Township agenda center portion of the website, it [was believed to have]* included resolutions for redevelopment [and it was suspected that,]* before the meeting, the agenda was revised and those resolutions were removed.
Mayor McLaughlin prepared a statement explaining why the resolutions were removed, saying that the Committee is working hard to adhere to the proper court procedures and directions, while also keeping the unique aspects that people love about the Township as a top priority.
“While we hope and expect to wrap up those agreements soon, the reasonable and responsible path forward is one that requires more time to resolve the terms of the redevelopment agreements,” said Mayor McLaughlin. )For the complete prepared statement, please see below.)
But, many members of the public in attendance were still not pleased.
“I’d just like to remind the Committee that you have a legal and moral obligation to keep the public informed,” said former mayor Harvey Lester. “You have a legal obligation to allow the public to read what you’re about to vote on. I would argue that it’s also a moral obligation.”
After listening to the public’s opinions and concerns, the Committee went on to pass various resolutions, three of which were related to personnel in the Hopewell Township Police Department. The Committee promoted Sergeant Francis Tulko to Lieutenant, Officer Mandy Gray to Sergeant, and appointed James L. McKenzie as dispatcher. The promotion of Sergeant Gray marked a historical moment for the Township.
“That is a unanimous approval for our first female sergeant,” announced Mayor McLaughlin with a smile.
When the Committee opened up the second public section, there were still some concerns from those in attendance.
“Mr. Kuchinski had mentioned that the League of Municipalities is saying PILOTs are a good thing and I just kept hearing my mother’s voice in the back of my head saying ‘Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t mean that you should be too,’” said Hopewell Township resident, Melanie Phillips. “We are our own unique Township and I would encourage you, as a Committee to approach any future agreements with our specific needs in mind, not just jumping on board because that’s what everybody else deems popular at this time.”
The ceremony for police promotions and appointments will be held on February 19 and the Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for February 4.
Mayor McLaughlin’s prepared statement:
Over the last 4 years, the Township has made significant progress in laying the foundation for meeting its constitutional, and moral, obligation to provide a realistic opportunity for affordable housing. On a unanimous, bipartisan basis, we signed an agreement with the court, Fair Share Housing, and our intervenors, and have since then followed through on our responsibility to set forth the zoning necessary to permit an appropriate mix of affordable and market rate housing units, along with associated commercial and related improvements in those specific areas. We have also approved and executed redevelopment agreements with significant development partners, including Woodmont, Lennar and Capital Health. We’ve done all this in compliance with court-imposed deadlines.
During that time, we have also been negotiating with CF Hopewell for the redevelopment of the Scotch Road area. The township has been focused on two things as we’ve gone through this process. We must adhere to the court’s directions and we will keep what we love and value about our hometown as priority one. While we hope and expect to wrap up those agreements soon, the reasonable and responsible path forward is one that requires more time to resolve the terms of the redevelopment of the Scotch Road area. Therefore, we removed those items from the agenda for tonight’s meeting.
Edited 2/7/19. Please also see https://mercerme.com/ongoing-agenda-issue-and-increases-to-ride-vouchers-discussed-at-htc-meeting/