To the Editor:

Ex-Mayor Urges More Public Input

Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh’s and Marvin Gardner’s recent comments about the redevelopment plan show an amazing disrespect for West Windsor residents.

Mayor Hsueh says he is surprised that Council wants to vote for the redevelopment plan in March. How could he be surprised when he knows that:

1. The plan cannot be voted upon without the zoning ordinances that must accompany it, 2. The ordinances have not been finished by the professionals and 3. There is a mandatory two-week wait between the time of introduction and the time of the hearing that must come before the vote?

Why did neither Mayor Hsueh nor Mr. Gardner announce at the January 29 Planning Board meeting that the reason for shutting down the process prematurely was because of a near-term deadline for funding? Why did Mayor Hsueh not attend the Council meeting on Monday, February 2nd to tell Council that time was short with respect to funding and the plan needed to be approved quickly? Could it be that they concocted the need for urgency after the public uproar at that Council meeting?

Why did Mayor Hsueh leave it to Council to take the leadership role in asking the state for the funding of infrastructure essential to the plan – like the Vaughn Drive Connector – infrastructure that has been planned and is ready to be funded?

How can Mr. Hsueh’s Planning Board Chair, Mr. Gardner, claim that “every issue was thoroughly vetted” when four highly-respected organizations came to Council on February 2nd to complain that their issues were ignored by him? Mr. Gardner is out of touch with reality.

Given their repeated desire to give residents ample opportunity to comment on the redevelopment plan, Hsueh’s and Gardner’s precipitous shut down of the last opportunity for public comment at the Planning Board, without any notice, is incredibly hypocritical.

Carole Carson

Edinburg Road, West Windsor

But Not All Agree

As an unpaid and non-elected volunteer member of the West Windsor Township Planning Board, I am distressed with the outright inaccuracies and distortions about our very public review of the West Windsor Township Council’s proposed Redevelopment Plan as forwarded to the Planning Board by Township Council, as reflected by former Mayor Carole Carson in her recent letters to the media.

All meetings of Planning Board are publicized and noticed according to state statute and calendared on the Township’s website. Additionally, all three sessions spent reviewing the plan were televised and recorded. Any member of the public can review the entire proceedings by contacting the West Windsor Planning and Zoning Office to secure their own copy of the proceedings in electronic format to verify what I am about to state in this letter.

The State Local Redevelopment and Housing Law provides for the Planning Board to conduct a review of the plan within 45 days of receiving the plan from the Council. Our review resulted in more than 100 recommendations to be made to the Council’s Plan, which are non-binding on the Council — meaning the Council can choose to ignore them all.

Various members of the public offered comment at all three sessions. Several spoke at more than one of these sessions. Surprising to many, there was no time limit imposed on any member of the public who expressed their views. Organizations were allowed to have as many speakers representing them as they wished and again no time limit was imposed. Members of the public were permitted to question the Township’s outside traffic, planning, and legal consultants and to engage in a dialogue with them.

Every written submission by members of the public was openly discussed point by point. Many of the public recommendations were incorporated into the planning Board’s 17-page report. In some instances where the view of our professionals differed from the views of the public, the Board supported the views of the consultants, and in at least one instance, the Board disagreed with both its consultants and the public and offered its own alternate recommendation.

Before the close of the second public session, the Township professionals were instructed to prepare a draft of the report to the Township Council including all the recommendations of the Planning Board and it was announced at that time that the Board would vote on its adoption at the third public session. At the third public session the report was openly discussed page by page, and the public was again given an opportunity to comment. At this session, changes and additions were made based upon discussions and public input. Subsequently, the Planning Board adopted the report and the resolution directing it to be forwarded to the Council by a unanimous nine member vote.

To those members of the public who did not have an opportunity to have their views included in the Council’s proposed Redevelopment Plan, before it was submitted to the Planning Board, or who wanted more than what was included in the Planning Board’s report, were advised to make their positions known to the Council. The public was reminded that the recommendations of the Planning Board were non-binding and that all or some of the recommendations can be ignored by the Council.

Michael Karp

West Windsor Planning Board Member

Now Is Time for Action

The latest move by the West Windsor Council to postpone again the passage of the Redevelopment Plan after the Planning Board approval by having a hundredth public work session on Monday, February 23, is yet another example of its will to kick the can down the road until its dead end. Already the Planning Board’s approval (with a few amendments) came after three public meetings with input from the planner, the traffic engineer, the Township attorney and the public. It seems obvious that Mr. Morgan, the Township Council President, who cast the only dissenting vote on sending this reduced plan to the Planning Board, seems determined to kill it. If this happens, we shall all bear the consequences, as the alternative is development as usual.

Already more than 1,"000 houses will have to be built in the next 10 years on two designated sites to comply with the State requirement under COAH. The Township government proposal of 282 units as part of larger projects voted unanimously by the Township will give us more than 1,"000 houses if the maximum number of moderate income units required from a private developer is 25 percent.

On the other hand, a transit village redevelopment would have contributed to COAH as well as provide many other advantages: the construction of a parking deck near the station, improvements along Route 571, other road improvements, a town center, and other amenities. This would have qualified as a smart-growth and transit oriented development favored by the state.

Since a redevelopment plan without a residential component does not make much sense, the compromise of around 500 units reached after three years of controversy and much expense was the best solution in the circumstances. And now is the ideal timing to send a redevelopment plan to the state, while we can still ask for funding and while we may be able to benefit from the economic stimulus package currently being debated by Congress, if we have shovel ready projects. The time for more words and criticism is over, we should finally demand action.

Paola Blelloch

281 Clarksville Road, Princeton Junction

School Budget Increase Irresponsible in Recession

Despite the current unprecedented economic recession, our school district is proposing to increase the school budget for the next fiscal year. This increase is proposed at a time when every industry of any size and productivity level, state governments and public institutions in New Jersey and around the country are employing a variety of strategies to cut costs and increase system efficiency. It is the residents’ expectation that in this environment the board should instruct the school administration to come up with smart cost containing efforts without compromising the quality of education for our children.

We are in a new environment that needs new and innovative ways to run our work and address our issues. It is certainly not acceptable to maintain the status quo and justify our current practice and spending today or in the future based on the existing system arrangements, organizational set up and/or certain decisions made many years ago. We all know the efficiency of our school system could be improved in many ways, which in turn may help reduce or avoid the potential wastes in the system.

Given the current economic crisis, it would be unwise to increase the financial burden of WW-Plainsboro residents, who will be asked to pay for the budget increase by additional property taxes. At the time of falling property values, an increase in our tax-property price ratio will not only diminish the attractiveness of the area, but it will force many residents to sell their homes against their will simply because they cannot afford the tax hikes that are predominantly absorbed by the school system.

The school budget increase in this era is irresponsible and avoidable. I hope our elected officials would develop a better understanding of the economic well-being of West Windsor-Plainsboro residents and take a more responsible approach.

Firoozeh Vali

West Windsor

Thanks for Listing Event

Thanks for running the photo of Mary Schenck knitting, as well as the Open Day notice, in the calendar of the latest issue of West Windsor-Plainsboro News. It drew a good number of visitors to the event. We appreciate your support.

Joan Parry

The Historical Society of West Windsor