Your water. Your environment. Your voice.

Pennytown

Pennytown/Kooltronic Development Updates

April 8, 2016

Hopewell Township Establishes Subcommittee to Explore Pennytown Sale

January 7, 2016

Hopewell Township Mayor Suggests Selling Pennytown

November 25, 2013

Hopewell Township enters into agreement with Conifer Realty, LLC to build 70 affordable housing units on the Pennytown redevelopment site on Route 31.

March 27, 2013

Hopewell Township Committee chooses to limit development to 70 affordable housing units on the Pennytown redevelopment site, moves away from controversial proposal to develop 365 housing units on Penntyown and adjacent Kooltronic property.

March 21, 2013

Statement of Jim Waltman, Executive Director before the Hopewell Township Planning Board March 21, 2013

March 20, 2013

Email to Members in Hopewell and Pennington Townships

In a bold and surprising move, the Hopewell Township Planning Board has accelerated the timing of its decision on the proposed large scale development at Pennytown and adjacent undeveloped lands owned by Kooltronic, Inc. For months, the Planning Board has said it will vote on March 28, but just yesterday it changed its online calendar to indicate that it will make the decision tomorrow, March 21.

You can protect Hopewell’s water and natural environment by speaking out this Thursday!

The last opportunity for public comment before the Planning Board makes its decision on whether or not to move forward with the proposed plan will be at a joint meeting of the Planning board and Hopewell Township Committee this Thursday, March 21, 7pm at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building, 201 Washington Crossing – Pennington Road, Titusville, NJ.

The Watershed Association continues to actively review the consultant reports commissioned by the Township and attend the public hearings on the proposed redevelopment plan. We are concerned about the impacts that the proposed 365 homes, 15,000 square feet of retail, and a community center may have on the Stony Brook and local groundwater resources. We are also concerned that Hopewell Township is considering abandoning a 2006 agreement with Kooltronic that would require the preservation of up to 1,000 acres (or more) of land in Hopewell as a condition of any proposed dense development.

March 1, 2013

Email to Members

The Hopewell Township Planning Board will meet this Thursday, the 28th, to discuss the future of the Marshall’s Corner redevelopment plan, a proposal allowing the construction of hundreds of new houses on open farmland. Read Executive Director Jim Waltman’s op-ed in the Hopewell Valley News to learn more about the proposal and why it may threaten our water and environment.

Please attend this Planning Board meeting to voice your concerns before this proposal is adopted! The meeting will be held on Thursday, February 28th at 7PM at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building at 201 Washington Crossing Pennington Road in Titusville.

February 14, 2013

GUEST OPINION: Question: Will Hopewell Township abandon its zoning? Hopewell Valley News, Thursday, February 14, 2013 9:05 AM EST

Hopewell Township has proposed a major development of hundreds of new residences in the historic village of Marshall’s Corner. To facilitate the proposal, some in the township have proposed abandoning zoning provisions that were enacted to protect Hopewell Valley’s rural character, clean water, and environment.

Concerned residents should attend upcoming meetings of the Township Committee and Planning Board, and voice their concerns before this proposal is adopted.

A decade ago, some towns in our region and around the state changed their zoning to reduce the amount and density of new developments in areas with limited drinking water supplies, where the soils don’t support septic systems very well and sewers are unavailable.

“Downzoning” was controversial and generated lawsuits from affected land owners, most of which were dismissed by the courts, but some of which were settled by towns that had changed their zoning.

In one such settlement, Hopewell Township agreed to modify its zoning on a 100-acre site along the Stony Brook, on Pennington-Hopewell Road, that is owned by Kooltronic. The property includes a manufacturing facility, but also contains some 60 acres of farmland and forest. In 2005, the township enacted a creative zoning approach called “non-contiguous density transfer” that allows Kooltronic to develop the property more intensely than the zoning would otherwise allow, but only if it preserves land elsewhere. Under the baseline zoning, Kooltronic can build about 14 homes on the property, but for every 7 acres it preserves in the township’s “mountain district” or every 3 acres it preserves in the “valley district, Kooltronic can build an additional residence.

The idea of the special zoning provision was to allow for a more dense, “clustered” development on this particular site, but to avoid increasing the pressure on the township’s water supplies, schools and other services by reducing the number of homes that could be built elsewhere in the township by a corresponding amount.

Across the street from Kooltronic is a 25-acre site that for many years contained the Pennytown Shopping Village and H.I. Rib restaurant. Hopewell Township bought the property in 2009 intending to build 70 affordable housing units there as part of its affordable housing plan. At the time, the township argued that this was a fiscally sound way to build state-mandated affordable housing and a way to avoid a “builder’s remedy” lawsuit.

Towns that do not comply with the state’s affordable housing rules are vulnerable to “builder’s remedy” lawsuits from developers. Under previous court rulings, developers filing such lawsuits have been granted the right to build not only the affordable units at issue but also a much higher number of “market-rate” housing alongside those units. The township’s justification statement for purchasing Pennytown explained the dreaded “builder’s remedy” possibility this way: “By including market-rate units in the development, a developer could build five times the amount of housing that would otherwise be required (by the affordable housing rules).”

Allowing a developer to build 350 homes in order to secure 70 affordable units was thought to create a financial burden on the town. New school and other services could cost taxpayers more than would be collected in property taxes on the new homes. Buying the Pennytown site was supposed to allow the township to protect against such a huge new increase in housing.

Now some in the township appear prepared to abandon the Kooltronic zoning and the original argument behind purchasing the Pennytown site.

Instead of requiring Kooltronic to preserve land elsewhere in the township in order to earn the right to build more than the 14 or so homes on the 60 acres of farmland and forest that zoning would otherwise allow, there is a move afoot to change the zoning to eliminate the off-setting land preservation requirement.

Instead of building the 70 affordable housing units on the adjacent 25-acre Pennytown site itself or finding a nonprofit organization to do so, some in the township now appear ready to embrace the “builder’s remedy” scenario that buying the site was supposed to avoid in the first place.

The idea pending before the Planning Board and Township Committee is to invite a developer to build 365 new residences on the two sites and eliminate the current land preservation requirement that would currently be a prerequisite to such a large development.

The concern that such a large new development would create an expensive increase in government services, not to mention threaten Hopewell Valley’s rural character, water and environment, seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

Jim Waltman is the executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, located on Titus Mill Road in Hopewell Township. The 930-acre Watershed Reserve contains a segment of the Stony Brook downstream from the proposed Pennytown/Kooltronic development.
 
 

Events

Woodcock Watch


Saturday, March 4, 6:00-7:30PM, Adults & Families (children 6yo+), Free


Join Education Director Jeff Hoagland at dusk as we watch and learn more about the spring courtship dance and fascinating life of this bird. Hike is co-sponsored by Washington Crossing Audubon Society.Call or email to register.


Learn more about all our programs for the coming weeks!
 

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