Home » Township Planning and Zoning Boards should meet in person – Part 2

Township Planning and Zoning Boards should meet in person – Part 2

by Community Contributor

To the Editor:

Who would have thought that, in 2024, the Hopewell Township Planning Board and the Hopewell Township Zoning Board of Adjustment would still upend decades of in-person meetings because they were given the authority to do so during a Public Health Emergency, which no longer exists? (See Part 1 here.)

At the Planning Board meeting on January 25, 2024, I engaged in my second annual request to return to in-person meetings to replace the Zoom meetings that are still conducted. I would not say that my request was dismissed out of hand. I would say that it sure felt like I was given short shrift.

One board member gave me the same dismissive reception as last year, pointing out that they were hearing from only one member of the public. Another board member noted that the board sits closely together on the dais. A third board member expressed concern about COVID. Another member made faces.

Yet, the United States House of Representatives has in-person meetings and seats 435 representatives in their chamber. They look seated closely together to me. Likewise, the New Jersey Legislature also has in-person meetings and, no doubt, sits closely together.  During the State of the Union and State of the State addresses, I bet that they sit even closer together to squeeze everyone in the room. Our Township Committee has been meeting in person since June 13, 2022.

While Covid is to be taken seriously, nothing prevents anyone from getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.  As far as being the lone voice, I have seen our township committee as well as its boards, committees and commissions act upon a request from a single member of the public when they are so inclined.

Governor Murphy ended the Public Health Emergency on March 7, 2022, while leaving the State of Emergency in place to cut through federal red tape. That loophole is being exploited by our Planning and Zoning Boards. While the governor expressed his desire to “return to normalcy,” it appears that our Planning and Zoning Boards will only get there kicking and screaming.

Harvey Lester,
Hopewell Township, NJ (Titusville)

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