Mayor McLaughlin wants you to believe that the Hopewell Township Committee had very few alternatives in their affordable housing planning. The reality is that the committee decided where development would go, in what intensity and often in what form.
These decisions have long-term consequences. Notably, they were not required by the court to add any commercial development, certainly not the new permitted uses on Scotch Road, including a 16-pump gas station to be located on environmentally sensitive lands and within 100 feet of a natural gas pipeline. They wanted the ratables in the wake of their 4.68 percent tax increase, which they conveniently blamed on the cost of the affordable housing litigation.
In the wake of these decisions, development approvals are now beginning to appear before the Hopewell Township Planning Board. First up is Woodmont Properties, which will place 48 affordable units and 252 market rate units on a tract on Federal City Road on the south side of I-295. Having avoided the builders’ remedy, the Planning Board retains its normal authority to review and advise the project.
With that in mind, they rejected the builder’s original plan, which would have isolated the affordable units right up against the I-295 off-ramp. The developer’s change moved the affordable units further from the highway, but now placed the development’s playground within 100 feet of the expressway.
On the township committee, Mayor McLaughlin voted for Woodmont, and therefore bears substantial responsibility for improving this plan. Her planning board response, as well as the response from her running mate and fellow planning board member, Courtney Peters-Manning, was to thank the developers for moving the affordable units. The mayor added one remaining concern: her “heebie jeebies” as a mother that the playground would have only a four-foot fence.
Permit me please to express my “heebie jeebies” as a mother. A higher fence would indeed be needed, but the real point is that the playground must not be located near I-295. The air pollution alone should have been forefront in the mayor’s mind, but the Woodmont plan faces a proven, scientific show-stopper.
The sound from the expressway would have negative effects upon the development of every child in that playground. A World Health Organization study reveals that the high decibel levels in that playground have many adverse consequences, including learning impairments, poor coping skills, impacts on long-term memory and reading comprehension, as well as physical effects on sleep, mental health and even on hair growth.
Hopefully, the planning board will now suggest that the developers move the playground well away from the highway. But the real point is that the mayor, having cast so many votes believing that she had no real choices, has never been up to the task of standing up to the corporate interests still descending upon the township. That should give everyone the heebie jeebies.