Local farm’s possible future use disturbs neighbors

Site is located off Pennington-Titusville Road

By John Tredrea, Staff Writer
   The New Jersey Department of Corrections has toured a vacant state-owned property in Hopewell Township, sparking concern from neighbors, who say the property is “not appropriate” for use as a correctional facility.
   The property, located in a residential zone, is on the northern side of Pennington-Titusville Road. The road includes several farms.
   Hopewell Township Administrator and Engineer Paul Pogorzelski said Monday that the township made inquiries into the matter in response to a call from Amie Rukenstein, who lives next to the property. The property is known locally as the Blackwell Farm.
   ”About a month ago Hopewell Township was made aware that the State of New Jersey was considering several structures on this farm as ‘surplus’ and was going to sell them,” Mr. Pogorzelski said. “The township advised the state at that time that the township would be interested in purchasing the dwellings for use in its affordable housing program. The township heard nothing more following that initial contact.”
   On July 26, township land-use official Jim McManimon spoke with Gene Hayman, who manages state-owned properties. “Mr. Hayman indicated that only the dwelling and out-buildings and surrounding 8 acres are considered as surplus and are up for sale,” Mr. Pogorzelski said.
   ”There is a greenway that the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wants to maintain on the balance of the land. Mr. Hayman advised Mr. McManimon that corrections officials have only toured the property and have not yet said they are formally interested. Mr. Hayman indicated that the DOC would have to purchase the land if they were interested.”
   Mr. Hayman also told Mr. McManimon that the state Department of Children and Families is looking at the houses on the Blackwell Farm for placement of families (Group Homes). “They have not formally responded yet, either,” Mr. Pogorzelski said.
   Ms. Rukenstein said she and a number of her neighbors are adamantly opposed to putting a state Department of Corrections or state Department of Children and Families facility on the Blackwell Farm. “We do not believe that this rural, residential area is appropriate for any such use,” she said.
   To enable either the Department of Corrections or the Department of Children and Families to place a facility on the Blackwell Farm, the DEP, which is the current owner, would have to sell the property to one or the other.
   Mr. Hayman said the future of the Blackwell Farm is expected to come up at the September State House Commission meeting.
   ”There is no date set for this meeting, but it usually occurs on a Monday or Thursday, which are legislative days,” Mr. Pogorzelski said.
   The members of the commission are Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hudson; Sen. Walter Kavanaugh, R-Somerset; Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D- Middlesex; and Assemblywoman Marcia Karrow, R-Hunterdon. There is also a representative from the governor’s office and the treasurer’s office. The State House Commission is the final authority on the disposition of this property.