West Windsor town hall meeting attracts senior citizens

Transportation, taxes and transit villages among the big issues

By: Emily Craighead
   WEST WINDSOR — Transportation, taxes and transit villages were among the issues discussed at the mayor’s town hall meeting Thursday.
   The open forum, which began with Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh summarizing ongoing projects in the township, attracted about 50 residents, many of them seniors.
   The first question addressed the need for public transportation, particularly for seniors.
   With the bus rapid transit system still just a concept, the township has been working with NJ Transit to provide updated information about population density in various areas to update bus routes, according to Community Development Coordinator Pat Ward. In particular, the county is undertaking a transportation program known as the Independent Transportation Network to give seniors more freedom and mobility.
   One local commuter sought assurance that serving commuters will remain central to the township’s redevelopment plan and that the train station will still be easily accessible. The mayor replied that early planning stages would include traffic impact studies. He said he envisions a suburban town center, but it could take a couple of years to develop those plans.
   Whether Route 571 will have the capacity to handle additional traffic the redevelopment might bring was another question raised by resident George Martch.
   Easing traffic through the township on Route 571 and other busy roads will require municipal and regional planning and cooperation, as well, according to Mayor Hsueh. He cited Lawrence Township’s approval of the Quaker Bridge Mall expansion, which could affect West Windsor traffic, but over which the township has no say.
   "This is a problem in New Jersey no matter where you go," he said.
   Within the township, construction will begin soon on the new Alexander Road bridge. Heavy machinery has been moved into the area, and PSE&G and Amtrak are finalizing their part of the plans.
   Another project Mayor Hsueh discussed briefly was the Grovers Mill Pond dredging, expected to cost about $4.6 million. About $2.9 million will come from federal funds. The mayor said the township could sell three liquor licenses to fund the township’s share of the project.
   "It will be up to the council to make the decision whether we want that to be a pond or we want that to be a swamp," Mayor Hsueh said.
   The ongoing revaluation, which is about 30 percent complete, continues to be an issue of concern for residents. The mayor said it is too early to draw conclusions about how the revaluation will affect property taxes.
   "If you don’t have 100 percent done, you can’t tell what the impact is going to be," Mayor Hsueh said.
   He said he will work with state legislators to achieve property-tax reform.
   "I’ve never been an activist, but when it comes to property taxes, I consider myself an activist," he said.
   "That probably will take a couple of years to get a final plan," Mayor Hsueh said.
   The town hall meeting was also an opportunity for residents to raise issues that receive less public attention.
   Several residents from the Hamlet at Bear Creek asked how such property issues as the high cost of heating were being addressed.
   Health and Human Resources Director Robert Hary said the Hamlet’s general manager seemed "amenable to making improvements."
   The residents also said they worry about stray bullets from hunters on the property adjacent to the Hamlet. Hunting is legal under state law, and unless the hunters violate other regulations, Police Chief Joe Pica said there is nothing the police can do.