Thank God For Elections -
We applaud the Committee for their last-minute decision to “consider” moving away from the disastrous River Road location for a high-density affordable housing development and to instead consider possibly placing it at what is currently the Charlie Brown's Steakhouse on Southern Boulevard. We and countless residents from all over the Township have been relentlessly enduring the Committees repeated efforts to insist on other fatally flawed locations, while trying to convince them this plan was not only still an option, but it was the best option for the Township for the past 8 months. We have been telling them that it just takes the willingness to put forth the effort and the creativity of thought to get it done. That said, we view the “victory lap” taken by the beleaguered Mayor and Deputy Mayor as what it is; pre-mature and done purely for political reasons.
For the past 8 months, the Committee has lectured and fear mongered the residents about how they had no choice but to jam large amounts of rental units on plots of land they should never go on, because:
- “We were out of time”
- “FSHC was not willing to negotiate further with us and would not accept another location”
- “The judge was not willing to grant any more extensions and was mandating we comply with the settlement agreement as it is written”
- “No one was willing to sell us property around Hickory Square”
Additionally, the residents were told on multiple occasions, “they just didn’t know what they were talking about”, and, “the Committee was protecting the Township”, this was the continued battle cry from Mayor Kelly and his Committee. Not to mention the Committee stated on numerous occasions, that they would never make public their negotiations with any business owners around town until they had a deal, for fear it would negatively impact their business. Indeed, we were told that continuing to negotiate with business owners during this pandemic would be, “preying on them”. So we ask, why now? Consider what was announced tonight carefully, there is no deal in hand, so what changed? Just two weeks ago there was no plan in place to look for other sites, apparently, now there is? Could it be the town has universally rejected the past plans put forth by this Committee and that were vociferously championed by Mayor Kelly? Could Mayor Kelly be fearful he is about to be ousted from office in the ongoing Primary Election? We think so. Do not allow this extremely vague and very self-serving announcement from Mayor Kelly to fool you; he has no deal for the Charlie Brown's site. It is merely something they are now claiming to be “considering” during the primary election.
Think about what really happened at tonight’s meeting, the Committee would not have had to move forward with the ordinance to acquire the second parcel on River Road if they had a deal on Southern. The River Road purchase is a hedge. We don’t need that lot for a group home when we have a perfectly good lot that is already owned by the Township on Gibbons that can be used for the third group home.
Moreover, why did two separate groups of residents have to sue the Committee in order to get them to listen and act in the best interest of the residents? Why were the residents forced to attend and suffer through, or zoom into, meetings for 8 months that continually went deep into the night just to have their voices heard? This elected body as it stands has created a wholesale loss of trust among the residents. When we residents have to stay up until midnight, sometimes past midnight, just to make sure the Township Committee doesn’t pull a fast one on us while we are asleep, (for example give away the municipal building) it’s time for new leadership.
If you want to make sure the plan we have been lobbying the Committee to act on for the past 8 months actually gets done, and you want leadership you don’t have to worry will pull a fast one on you late in the night, vote for us, Ashley Felice and Mark Hamilton. We pledge to always be open and transparent with the public, we pledge to never put a town altering item up for vote without proper resident notice and vigorous open debate on it. There have been two consistent voices in the room, or on the phone, at every township meeting for the past 8 months, and those were ours. We have been fighting for all of the residents to get this plan done. We are half-way there, we got the Committee to reverse course twice after adopting and fully embracing completely disastrous plans, based on representations about the true nature of potential further negotiations that were either deliberately deceptive, or even worse, represent a complete inability to understand what needed to be done. Vote for us and we will finish the job!
Ashley Felice and Mark Hamilton, Candidates for Township Committee