HILLSBOROUGH: We’re back on ‘100 Best Places to Live’ list

Money magazine ranks township 53rd in nation for quality of life

By Gene Robbins, Managing Editor
   Hillsborough officials have proudly bannered its place as one of the country’s “100 Best Places to Live” in a 2007 ranking by Money magazine.
   Well, it can dust off the designation again. The 2011 list of desirable small towns in American once again includes Hillsborough, in 53rd place on the list.
   The magazine says it used statistics from a data services company to “zero in” on America’s best small towns for families.
   The magazine’s blurb about Hillsborough reads:
   ”This bucolic part of Somerset County is home to the famed 2,700-acre estate of late heiress Doris Duke, with nature trails open to the public; an educational and environmental center is being developed.
   But that’s not the only wide-open space in Hillsborough Township. This collection of five “villages” still has several farms nearby. And the culture and job opportunities of Princeton are 12 miles away.”
   The magazine says Hillsborough has an annual median family income of $111,405, about the average of the 100 Best Places towns. Its job growth of 4 percent outpaced the list’s average 1.4 percent, but the median home rice was unavailable, perhaps because of the revaluation of property for tax purposes.
   It used test scores for percentage of student reading and math, and said Hillsborough’s percentage above or below the state average in reading was 5 percent higher than the average of the Best Places list, and 2 percent greater in math.
   Donna Sullivan, manager of the Weichert Realtors office in Hillsborough, knows the list could have an influence on individuals and businesses that want to locate to the area. She said her company was distributing the article internally for information purposes.
   ”I’ve lived here 30 years so I could go on and on about how great it is,” she said. “I live on one of the last roads to be paved.”
   ”The biggest thing I’ve seen are the open spaces, its beauty, parks and what’s built in — golf, restaurants, shopping. It has communities built within the community,” she said.
   She added: “And I still drive home and see the cows at Duke Farms.”
   The magazine says it started with 3,570 U.S. towns that have a population of 8,500 to 50,000. It screened out places with median family income more than 200% or less than 85% of the state median; those more than 95% white; and those with poor education and crime scores.
   It excluded retirement communities and towns with major job losses. It ranked the rest on undescribed criteria of job growth, home affordability, safety, school quality, health care, arts and leisure, diversity and several ease-of-living criteria.
   Then, it factored in more data on the economy (including fiscal strength of state and local governments), jobs, housing, and schools.
   Finally it visited 35 towns and interviewed residents; assessed traffic, parks, and gathering places, and considered intangibles like community spirit, it said.
   Nationally, the number one ranking went to Louisville, Colorado, located in the Front Range foothills six miles from Boulder. In New Jersey, Montville (ranked 17th overall), South Brunswick (number 22), Ridgewood (26) and Madison (33) were ahead of Hillsborough.
   (Editor’s note: The magazine doesn’t identify the five “villages,” but Wikipedia notes Belle Mead, Blackwell’s Mills, Flagtown, Neshanic and South Branch. Clover Hill and areas bordering on Millstone also meet the description.)
   The prominent mention in the magazine gave Duke Farms Foundation executive director Timothy M. Taylor a chance to beam, too.
   ”We at the Duke Farms Foundation are very proud that Hillsborough was so honored; we know that it is a very special place and we hope to build on that legacy,” he said.
   ”Our vision for Duke Farms is to serve as a regional center of environmental stewardship, a place where people can come to learn how to become good stewards of the land and water, and to see green initiatives put into practice.
   With the opening of a new orientation center on Dukes Parkway West in 2012, the foundation also will open many miles of new trails and expand educational programs and recreational opportunities, he said.
   ”We hope that Duke Farms will be a destination for both local residents and visitors from the surrounding region, a place for learning, research, and to simply experience and enjoy nature,” he said