Hopewell Borough planners reorganize


By Sandra Phelps
   The Hopewell Borough Planning Board reappointed Bob Donaldson chairman and appointed Paul Buda vice chairman at its annual reorganization meeting Jan. 7.
   The Planning Board had been without a vice chairman for several months.
   Donna Griffiths was reappointed Planning Board secretary.
   Dennis O’Neal of Hopewell Valley Engineering was reappointed Planning Board engineer, Tom Reynolds as board attorney, and Carl Lindbloom, board planning consultant. The Hopewell Valley News was designated the official newspaper.
   Abigail Frantz, Mark Samse, and Michelle Hovan (borough administrator/clerk) were appointed to one-year Planning Board terms. Peter Macholdt and Joseph Zito were appointed to four-year board terms, and Andrew Lea was appointed a Planning Board alternate, serving a two-year term.
   Ms. Hovan said one reason she is serving on the Planning Board is to help streamline communications between the Planning Board and other offices. She said she is working on developing a more comprehensive Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) form. COAH process fees are collected for new construction, both home and non-residential. Fees are higher for non-residential construction.
   Ms. Hovan said she also is working on guidelines for obtaining construction/demolition permits. The process should begin with the zoning officer, she said. The guidelines come on the heels of an incident in which a barn was demolished without following proper procedures.
   Al Campbell of Rhodes Auto Body has been cited for several violations in connection with the barn that was removed from the Veelenturf property at 58 Model Ave., next to Mercer Auto Body, in the historic district zone.
   A permit had been issued by the building inspector or the barn’s demolition, but board members and the borough zoning officer expressed dissatisfaction with the process.
   In 2000, when the property owner discussed the barn with the borough Historic Advisory Committee, the committee advised against the barn’s demolition, and the topic was not discussed again.
   On June 16, 2003, Mr. Campbell approached the building inspector about the barn, but referred to the barn as a shed, according to board members. The building inspector then issued a permit for the building’s demolition. In the future, the building inspector, Bob Ward, will check to see if a building permit needs a certificate or not, depending on whether or not the property is in the historic district.
   Applications shall first be submitted to the zoning officer, Harry Agin, who will determine eligibility, Ms. Hovan said.
   In other business, the board discussed front yard setback requirements. The matter is being discussed because in certain areas, such as on Model Avenue, there are two different setbacks on the street.
   The board wants house setbacks to conform to the neighborhood in which they are located. "We are trying to prevent one house on the street to be set way back," said Mr. Zito.
   Planner Carl Lindbloom said he would develop some setback guidelines prior to the next board meeting so Planning Board members would review them. Currently, for the Historic District, the Historic Commission can recommend a setback to the board and can ask that a house conform to the streetscape setback, Mr. Lindbloom said.
   In another matter, Engineer O’Neal went over the Mercer County Access Management Survey with board members. Board comments will be sent to Hopewell Borough Council members for review prior to submission. Council members will be able to endorse or make changes to the survey responses. The survey represents a wish list of what the borough officials envision for the roadways.
   Among items Planning Board members said they would like to see are: more crosswalks along Broad Street, which would act as traffic "calming," better enforcement or lowering of the 30-mph limit, and planting and maintaining street trees.
   Public Works Director Herb Ruehle said he would like to see more frequent leaf pickup, better pothole repairs and more crosswalks on Broad Street.