HOPEWELL VALLEY: Mayors are upbeat about their communities

By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
Business conditions are good in Hopewell Township, Pennington and Hopewell Borough, according to the mayors of each town.
The trio gave their assessments of the current economic climate in their respective municipalities while speaking at the annual State of Hopewell Valley Business Address and Hopewell Awards Presentation held June 17 at the Hopewell Valley Golf Club.
The luncheon event was organized by the The Hopewell Valley Chapter of the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce.
As part of the afternoon festivities, the chamber also honored Capital Health as the recipient of this year’s community service award. Dennis Dooley of Capital Health accepted the award. Hopewell Valley Central High School student Deborah Keen was also on hand to receive a scholarship award from the Hamilton Education Foundation.
While Mayor Harvey Lester of Hopewell Township, Mayor Anthony Persichilli of Pennington Borough and Mayor Paul Anzano of Hopewell Borough all bragged about the merits their own communities, Mr. Anzano also described some of the challenges his municipality faces.
“The state of Hopewell Township is good and recently became even better,” Mr. Lester said, speaking first. “A few days a ago an Internet ranking site evaluated 407 New Jersey municipalities with populations of over 5,000 residents and rated Hopewell Township one of the 10 best places to live in New Jersey.”
“In fact, we were fourth and surpassed all other Mercer County communities in that category.”
The town rankings cited come from HomeSnacks.net, Mr. Lester said. The website’s goal, according to its publishers, is “to combine recent data” into “bite-sized snacks of shareable information.”
Mr. Lester also touted some of the other goods thing about Hopewell Township not mentioned in the Internet ranking, like the the town’s AAA bond rating and what he called the “lowest equalized tax rate” in Mercer County. The township, he said, also has an abundance of open space.
“One-third of all the open space in Mercer County is in Hopewell Township, and Hopewell Township is one-third open space,” he said.
Mayor Anthony Persichilli of Pennington Borough spoke next. Determined not to be outdone when it comes to town rankings, Mr. Persichilli bragged that New Jersey Family Magazine recently ranked Pennington number one for families in the state among towns with a population of under 5,000.
“So if you want to raise a family, come to Pennington Borough … if you can afford it,” Mr. Persichilli quipped.
The Pennington mayor reminded the roughly 80 luncheon attendees that this year marks the 125th anniversary of the borough’s incorporation. Pennington has been celebrating with events like house tours and church tours.
“We’ve had a couple of parties, too,” Mr. Persichilli said. “It is a small town and we do small things, but we do them very very well.”
Businesses in Pennington, he said, are supported by “a very active business association and economic development group. We sort of attract small businesses and we like that.”
Right now, he said, Pennington officials are interested in extending the downtown area towards Route 31 as a business overlay district. As an incentive, he said, “we would like to offer a couple of liquor licenses for that area.”
“We’ll be looking for restaurants and and other businesses to fill that in,” Mr. Persichilli said.
When it was his turn at the microphone, Hopewell Borough Mayor Paul Anzano said that rather than describe all the good things about his town, it’s better to experience his community firsthand.
“You see it when you go there. You feel it when you’re in the town,” Mr. Anzano said.
A number of special events held in Hopewell Borough like the recent “tremendously successful” town-wide yard sale and the upcoming Food Truck Friday, he said, are organized “to try to balance the business community’s interests with the residents’ interests.”
That balance is important, he said, because one of the unique things about living in a borough is the proximity of business properties to residential properties.
“There can be tension, so we, as mayor and council, work very hard to make sure those tensions don’t develop,” Mr. Anzano said.
The Hopewell Borough mayor bragged that there are no vacant storefronts in town and that other businesses are looking to open up shop in the borough.
“It’s a wonderful community. It’s balanced at this point,” Mr. Anzano said. “But, we have issues, and there is no denying it.”
A constant concern is traffic, especially speeding and parking.
“Obviously property taxes are always an issue,” he said.
Mr. Anzano said the Hopewell Borough Council has not yet taken a position on whether to formally oppose the proposed PennEast pipeline. But he is hopeful, he said, his municipality will develop a “rational thoughtful policy.” Hopewell Township, Pennington, Mercer County and others have already passed resolutions against the pipeline.
Hopewell Borough Council is also currently in debate over a COAH affordable housing obligation it faces.
“We’re a small town and the COAH obligation is not large,” Mr. Anzano said. “Again, we’re trying to strike a balance to keep everyone happy and preserve the quality of life in the town.” 