mayors columnThere is still a good chance you may see and hear—perhaps in this very publication through some well-paid advertising—about how Robbinsville Township, and me specifically, are on the wrong side of the upcoming Open Space Referendum on the November election ballot.

You may see and hear how Robbinsville Township—and me specifically—want nothing more than to further tax our residents. You may see and hear how Robbinsville Township—and me specifically—are anti-business, anti-worker, anti-growth and that we are bad at basic math.

I can assure you nothing—and I do mean nothing—you may see and hear over the next six weeks from a certain local developer could be further from the truth.

The much-disputed, 220-acre parcel most commonly known as “Washington Woods” on Robbinsville-Edinburg Road north of Robbinsville High has been a key piece of the township’s Open Space Plan since 2008. The Robbinsville Advance has done a terrific job vetting the particulars of this story, and you can read them for yourself in these pages, so I won’t bore you with redundant details.

The math is very simple: More houses plus more school children equals significantly higher school taxes. Period.

The land owners of this property, along with the developer who stands to lose millions in personal profits if the Nov. 8 referendum passes, would like you to believe Robbinsville Township, and me specifically, would not be doing what is in the best interest of the community by filing a notice of taking and condemning the property in order to purchase and preserve it as open space.

We vehemently disagree, as does Mercer County and its chief executive, Brian M. Hughes, who on Sept. 19 pledged $2 million to us to help purchase the property through the county’s Open Space Trust Fund.

For $55 per household on a home assessed at the township average of $368,000—or 15 cents per day—a ‘Yes’ vote on Nov. 8 will help us acquire and preserve not only “Washington Woods,” but also the former Miry Run Golf Course.

I do not take any tax increase lightly. Anyone following this township’s financials over the past decade can come to no other conclusion than that we have gone above and beyond to not only hold the line on but to actually lower municipal taxes. We have reduced our municipal tax rate the past two years, and we will never stop looking for ways to remain stable.

The preservation of open space and limiting future housing development is a vital part of that plan, as were the many cost-cutting steps I took early in my tenure as mayor. Those measures included consolidating the Fire District and the Municipal Utilities Authority under the municipal government, thus saving more than $1 million in direct and indirect costs. We recently completed the process of eliminating lifetime health benefits for all new hires, saving taxpayers of Robbinsville Township millions.

We don’t mind stepping in front of moving front-end loaders poised to destroy trees in our neighborhoods without a permit, and we don’t mind getting our hands dirty when it comes to doing what is in the best interest of our constituents.

If you want to make a real difference in a national election seemingly devoid of actual winners, vote ‘Yes’ for the Open Space Referendum on Nov. 8.

Dave Fried is the Mayor of Robbinsville.