Residents question Plumsted zoning change

We are deeply concerned about what we believe will become an extremely poor plan for the future of our town and for the pocketbooks of homeowners – the rezoning of a light industrial area in our town for new housing. This plan is being billed as a way to bring sewers into our downtown and to contribute "ratable-like" taxes to the community, as the proposed housing development is age-restricted housing that theoretically should bring in taxes without burdening the school system.

On the surface, it sounds like a great deal. But if you scratch just below the surface, it is not a good deal. Our concerns include:

• Increased homeowners taxes — After a 14 percent increase in our homeowners’ taxes for 2003, the last thing we need is our township creating a plan that will have a negative impact on taxes. This plan is touted as one that will give us sewers at "no cost," as the developer will "give" the community a sewer system for our downtown in exchange for the ability to build. In fact, however, the initial calculations have determined that this plan will likely result in both the federal government and the state government reclassifying our township, causing a decrease of both state and federal dollars into our school system. The school administration believes this plan will result in an increase in our homeowners’ taxes based on decreased state funding.

• Burden on township services — Bringing in 400 new homes into our community will result in 400 to 800-plus new residents, new vehicles, increased traffic, and an increased burden on our fire, police and emergency response workers. Will we need to move from a volunteer fire and first aid squad to a paid force? Will we need additional emergency vehicles? And with the age-restricted housing plan, will the burden on our emergency system be greater than "typical" housing? Will we need new traffic lights, signs and road expansion? None of these issues have been addressed satisfactorily by the township and all of this adds up to increases in our taxes.

• Commercial zoning gone forever — The township is planning to rezone an area that the master plan has designated as commercial. Bringing good, clean "ratable" business to our community helps to defray our property taxes (as businesses pay taxes without adding costs to our schools). It also brings important services, jobs to our town, and contributes to a healthy community. This plan will remove this light industrial zone from our plan forever.

• Poor planning, poor implementation — The township plan developed years ago included commercial and light industrial zones in our plan. This very viable plan supports creating a self-supporting community with the businesses located in our town contributing jobs, taxes and services. The township has failed to execute this plan and has been hostile to the business, rather than business-friendly.

This township has had opportunities in the past to bring much needed sewers to our downtown at little to no cost to taxpayers. Time and again, these opportunities were passed by. Why? Fear of "growth"? Inaction? Incompetence? Lack of interest?

This plan to bring in new housing with the quid pro quo of sewers for our downtown is a "band aid" approach that gives up much more than we would receive in return. There is no doubt that we need to bring sewers into our downtown. Pushing through an "easy way out" plan without doing an impact analysis to determine what cost in taxes, traffic, lost ratables and impact on our quality-of-life, however, is not the way to go.

This "deal" has been in the works for a long time and it is unlikely that this plan will now be stopped. It was railroaded through the system to minimize public input and resistance. We would suggest that everyone who is as outraged about this plan as we are follow the money trail as this moves forward. See who profits from this venture and how they might have been involved in its inception. Past or present public officials should not profit at the taxpayers’ expense.

This is our community. We choose our elected officials. They are in office to serve the public and this community. The decisions being made today will directly affect us all – both economically with increased taxes and in quality-of-life. If you feel the same, we encourage you to speak up. This plan will affect us all for many years to come.

Mitch Geier

Don Knause