ASHLEY FELICE AND MARK HAMILTON FOR TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE: Who we are and what we stand for…
Ashley and Mark are both licensed attorneys with business acumen devoted to promoting efficient, responsive, transparent and community-focused government. In addition to being an attorney, Ashley was a successful small-business owner and understands what it takes to run a complex organization including balancing budgets, managing employees, and negotiating contracts. She had to navigate complex regulations, service hundreds of clients, while being responsible for the livelihoods of her employees and their families. That experience directly translates to the types of responsibilities she will undertake as a committee member for the residents of Chatham Township. Mark’s experience and expertise in the courtroom litigating and negotiating complex contract disputes will enable him to analyze and challenge multifaceted situations and actively protect the Township residents from outside influences. Ashley and Mark’s added experience, especially in the legal field, will be invaluable to the residents of the Township.
Ashley and Mark are committed to engagement with the Township residents to rework the current affordable housing plan being forced on the Township by the current Committee. Ashley and Mark believe with competence, effort and creativity an affordable housing plan can be put forth that adds value to the overall Township landscape and works for the current Township residents, as well as puts an end to the divisive climate that the current Committee has created by pinning neighborhoods against one another. Additionally, a better plan can be implemented that would actually benefit the ultimate residents of the development instead of forcing them to live in an area that has no access to public transportation, is not walking distance to food and necessity stores and is unsafe for them to walk around. The current plan is to build a high-density complex on busy and environmentally sensitive River Road which has no sidewalks, sewers or other necessary infrastructure. The current committee has not sought, and refuses to even listen to, Township residents’ input on these large municipally sponsored development projects. Their dealings have continuously been done behind closed doors and sprung on residents a day before their formality vote of approval (which is always a “can’t wait” emergency). This has forced residents to scramble at the last minute, ourselves included, to attend the Township Committee meetings and be allowed the ability to voice their opposition to the plans that were just dropped on them. Ashley and Mark as well as countless other residents who are professionals - including developers, attorneys, finance professionals, engineers etc., have taken the time to research and present alternative options to the committee that were better for both the town and the ultimate residents of the units. These residents’ efforts have repeatedly been dismissed by the committee, whose current membership represents a complete lack of sophisticated business expertise. This has compelled Ashley and Mark to challenge Mayor Mike Kelly for his position on the committee, and to seek to work together to also fill the seat being vacated by Karen Swartz after years of fine service. This is an effort to bring new leadership that will listen to, and engage with the residents, ultimately ensuring the Chatham Township residents are put first.
Ashley and Mark are committed to bringing back fiscal responsibility in Chatham Township. The Township worked hard to build up the current surplus it enjoys and has historically managed debt appropriately for the size of the municipality (as evidenced by the Township’s “A” credit rating). The current committee, headed up by Mayor Kelly, is taking advantage of that rating, while simultaneously placing it in jeopardy, to fulfill his vision for the geographical makeup of the Township. The Committee recently put forth and approved to deplete the current $3.5 million surplus down to less than $500K, raise the municipal taxes on the residents by 12.6%, and add additional indebtedness to the Township to acquire properties around town and donate them to builders. These actions impact every tax-paying resident, not only by raising their annual tax spend, but also by reducing their property values. What the current committee is failing to realize is, future residents of the Township will adjust their market offers for Chatham Township homes down to make up for the increases in the municipal tax this Committee has implemented. Ashley and Mark have been vocally opposed to the financially irresponsible path the current Committee is leading the Township down, and believe this program is, and will ultimately be, terrible for our community on many levels, including, but certainly not limited to, economically.
Ashley and Mark are committed to protecting and preserving our environmentally sensitive land. They intend to reassert that the Master Plan and zoning laws are in place for a reason, especially to protect ecologically sensitive areas, including those that contain endangered species from intense development and further recommit to protecting overdevelopment on steep slopes that leads to deforestation and has negative impacts on water runoff.
Ultimately, Ashley and Mark will provide a very different approach than the current Mayor, Mike Kelly. Mike Kelly has failed the Township and its residents. Mayor Kelly has held a position on the Township Committee for the past 6 years, most recently last year as Deputy Mayor and currently as the Mayor. He has been the chief architect and negotiator of the wildly unpopular modified settlement agreement recently entered into with Fair Share Housing Center through which the current Committee wed us to the development of 100% municipally sponsored affordable housing in multiple locations throughout the township at an extremely high cost to the tax-paying residents of the community (quantified, most notably, in the current 12.6% tax increase thrust upon the residents of the Township this year). Mike Kelly negotiated these settlements, behind closed doors, never eliciting public input, and then outright ignoring it when his plans became public. Mike Kelly has been a disaster for the residents of Chatham Township throughout this process.
***Please remember, this primary election is a MAIL-IN-BALLOT election, so when you receive your ballot in the mail, don’t forget to fill out the bubbles for Ashley Felice and Mark Hamilton and promptly mail the ballot back to ensure your vote is counted.