HOPEWELL TWP.: Pennytown missing as housing site in plan 

By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
HOPEWELL TWP. — After Planning Board officials heard an update on the township’s ongoing affordable-housing litigation, one member of the public questioned why the Pennytown property was not part of the affordable housing plan presented to the court.
Pennytown is a township-owned tract of land of about 25 acres located at the junction of routes 31 and 654.
Horatio “Ray” Nichols, the current chair of the township’s Environmental Commission, asked the board at its Dec. 10 meeting whether the Pennytown site had been excluded from the plan submitted to Mercer County Judge Mary Jacobson three days earlier.
Paul Pogorzelski, administrator for Hopewell Township, said a plan was developed without incorporating Pennytown.
A summary of the township’s affordable-housing plan, also called a “matrix,” was prepared by professional planner Frank Banisch and delivered to the court on Dec. 7. That matrix showed that Hopewell Township could achieve about 890 affordable housing units on properties other than Pennytown.
Mr. Nichols also asked if the Township Committee had requested the Planning Board delete Pennytown from the affordable housing plan.
“They did send a recommendation to the Planning Board that we consider removal of it,” Karen Murphy, the Planning Board president, said in response. “They didn’t direct us to remove it, but they said please consider removal.”
In 2008, a previous Hopewell Township Committee voted to buy Pennytown, formerly a shopping center, for $6.65 million with the intent to use the land for affordable housing.
Obviously disappointed by the answers he received, Mr. Nichols told the Planning Board that “a lot of volunteers spent a lot of time trying to develop a plan for providing affordable housing on the Pennytown site.”
Besides the multi-million-dollar purchase price, he said, the township also spent money investigating the feasibility of building about 70 housing units there for low- and moderate-income buyers and renters.
Mr. Nichols urged the Planning Board to keep Pennytown in the township’s affordable housing plan.
“The town has been expecting it,” he said. “The town has been saying for years that it did not want to see all future development located in the southern tier (of the municipality). Pennytown is much more centrally located.”
Since the township has already spent a lot of money on Pennytown, Mr. Nichols said, “to delete it at this time is a disservice to the residents.”
One Planning Board member suggested that, while Mr. Nichols’ arguments are “valid,” the same points had already been considered by the board last year.
Mr. Pogorzelski, recommended that Mr. Nichols direct his comments to the Township Committee, since Hopewell Township is the owner of the Pennytown property. 