Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Election is Over

But We Still Go On

Debra and Jean may have lost the election, but they have not lost their dedication to South Brunswick.

We plan to continue expressing our opinions here and speaking up for what we think is right for our Town at various meetings. 

In the meantime, we both would like to thank our many volunteers, as well as the voters of South Brunswick whose belief in our cause and platform gave us support all the way to the voting booths.

Defeat is discouraging, but it does not conquer right.  We still believe our perceptions of the present govenment's decisions were true.  Sometimes the majority needs to be questioned and challenged. 

We hope, over the next few years, to build a broader base and a stroger Independent voice in Town.

Please join us in our efforts to make South Brunswick a better place for all our residents.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Concrete Batch Plant

Hearing Postponed

The hearing on the concrete batch plant proposed for Fresh Ponds Road at the old Weldon site has been postponed until November 18th.  I called the Township today and this was the report I received.

Any industrial development in a rural residential zone is unacceptable. Homeowners should not be subjected to the the noise, pollution and truck traffic generated by this time of project.

More on this later, but for now, residents have gotten a breather from battle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Ratables Chase

Is It Worth It?

Property taxes keep going up in South Brunswick, and yet the Council keeps reminding us how many businesses have come into town--and into the warehouse district.

The trouble is, while ratables to contribute to the tax base, they also cost the Township money.  Industrial development puts a burden on our roads, utilities and services.  We need more water to supply huge warehouses and more roads to carry the trucks and cars they generate.

South Brunswick needs to reevaluate its quest for industrial ratables.  We need to examine just how much they do contribute to our tax base. Do a search on the Internet for "ratables chase" and you will find numerous studies reporting that ratables are not necessarily the solution to high property taxes.

One of the best investments for a town?  Surprise! Open space!  Not only does open space make a town more pleasant to live in, but is also does not add to the tax burden.  And actually, some studies are proving that well planned residential housing is also a good investment.

Go figure. Or, go visit some of the websites and go figure.

Here are some selected sites:

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Debate, No Discussion

Why Can't We Talk?

The Dayton Coalition's planned "Meet the Candidates" night on Octover 20 has been canceled due to a lack of interest.

Interest from whom, do you ask?  Not the public.  The candidates.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans accepted the Dayton group's invitation to attend the event.  This was to be an informal gathering, where residents could ask questions and get to know the candidates as people and also learn more about their platforms and opinions on local issues.

Debra Johnson and Jean Dvorak accepted at the first invitation.  Why do the other candidates not want to engage in conversation on topics relevant to the election?

There has been no open debate.

Why not?

One side is ready, willing and able.

Perhaps those same Independent thinkers are the ones most ready, willing and able to run the Township too?

It's worth thinking about.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Victory for Open Space

One More Farm is Protected

North Brunswick Township just announced a victory in its efforts to preserve the Pulda Farm in their Township.

This is the end of another epic battle to protect Open Space and defeat efforts at over development.  Going on for just about as long as the EVA's fight to buy the South Brunswick farm, the North Brunswick battle has many twists and turns.  The disputed land was slated for all kinds of high density development along the way.  Dedicated residents and concerned groups argued again and again, using every available defense to protect this piece of valuable Open Space--one of the few left in their Township.

Again, it was a collaborative effort among the Township, Middlesex County, and the State of New Jersey's Green Acres program.  Some have suggested that the South Brunswick preservation effort to save the farm in our Township may well have impacted the North Brunswick situation as well.

Either way, this success proves what can be done when a dedicated and determined group of citizens bands together to do something positive in Town.  It is hard work and it demands a constant effort to find every possible method available.

In South Brunswick, we generated a constant stream of news coverage which included television, radio and newspapers, even getting stories published in the New York Times. EVA members traveled to countless preservation meetings, made hundreds of phone calls and e mails to public officials and others who might help. We offered public presentations,  took interested parties on tours, and met numerous elected representatives such as Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein and Representative Rush Holt.

North Brunswick residents worked as hard, even battling their own Township government's zoning decisions which seemed to be benefiting the developer instead of residents.

But the farm  will be preserved, despite all the forces working against it.

Congratulations, North Brunswick.  Now, you have joined your neighboring Township in protecting and preserving and important part of our heritage and one more piece of beautiful Open Space for generations to come.

Well done!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Open Space Commentary

Republicans Want to Cut Funding???

South Brunswick Republicans seem to think cutting one penny from the Open Space Tax in South Brunswick is a good idea.  Candidates on Open Space in the South Brunswick Post  As Steve Walrond notes, there is a surplus in the Open Space Trust Fund, so why not make cuts?

But every time Open Space funding shows up on the ballot in South Brunswick and New Jersey, taxpayers always vote to support it with their tax dollars.

As far as I'm concerned, cutting Open Space taxes is an example of being penny-wise and pound foolish.  It is exactly what I criticized Middlesex County Freeholders for doing this summer.

More and more evidence is proving that Open Space is one of the best investments a municipality can ever make.  Open Space contributes to the health, welfare, and comfort of residents, it does not add to the need for infrastructure, and in the end, it makes good economic sense.  And it's clear it's exactly what citizens want.

The perceived surplus in South Brunswick needs to be spent well to buy more land and maintain the quality of the parks we already own.

It's what the people want.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Meet the Candidates

October 20

The Dayton Coalition will be hosting a "Meet the Candidates" night on October 20, from 7:30-9:00 PM at Fresh Ponds Village.

Debra Johnson and Jean Dvorak will be there to meet you and answer your questions.

Come join us for an evening of good conversation.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zoning is Important

Would You Want a Factory Across the Street?

Residents of Fresh Ponds Road will be faced with a serious zoning concern in the near future.

A concrete manufacturing company wants to put a concrete batch plant in the old Weldon Asphalt site.  Noise, dust, and plenty of trucks come along with this kind of development.

BUT, in order to do this, the company must obtain a zoning variance from the Township.  The land is currently zoned for Rural Residential housing--one house on two acres.  The land also sits within the boundaries of the Pigeon Swamp State Park, a critical environmental area.

The Weldon plant closed down several years ago, so the permits they had to operate have run out, and the new plan has to apply all over again from the beginning.

This is a bad idea all around.  Industrial development should never be placed near homes.  Fresh Ponds Road should never again be used as a heavy truck route. And the Category One waters of the State Park as well as the very environment of the area simply cannot be put at risk by concrete dust, pollution, and diesel fumes.

Watch this blog for the hearing date.  The public needs to speak up to protect our residents, our road, and our environment from this project.  Your presence and your voices will matter to the Zoning Board.

Let's protect South Brunswick from the wrong development in the wrong place.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Watching Your Wallet

Budgets and Money

I was asked by the South Brunswick Post for a position statement and comments on the budget in South Brunswick.  Now, I'll never claim to be an expert at handling money, nor an expert at municipal budgets, but something I said in those comments stuck with me that I'd like to share.

I got myself into a bit of a predicament with my own credit cards. The problem, as I see it, is that credit cards give consumers a false sense of just how much money they actually do have to spend.  I learned it's much better to count the money in your wallet first before you go out to buy.

Government needs to start thinking that way as well.  Of course there are always times when the credit card has its purpose, as do loans and financing.  But how many times do governments borrow and spend for things that just might not be a necessity?

It's too easy to lose sight of the real value of a dollar when you are dealing in thousands of dollars every day.  Suddenly, even a hundred dollars here or there seems like pocket change easily spent and just as easily owed.  I can only imagine how it must be for legislators in Washington who deal in millions and even billions of dollars.

But the fact it, one hundred dollars does matter and so does a dollar here and there. Go to the cash register a dollar short in most any store and see how far you get with your purchase.  We need to start thinking in dollars and cents, or dollars and sense about spending. Count the money in the wallet and then decide what we actually can purchase.

Realistically, we need to start figuring out how much money we have to spend on what we need before we start making a list of things we want that we actually can't afford.  It might hurt, but paying cash instead of pulling out that credit card isn't such a bad idea at all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Matters

Voters' Concerns

Walking through town and talking to voters reveal some interesting perspectives and concerns on their parts.

Foremost seems to be the rising cost of living in South Brunswick.  Every now and then someone says, "I'm going to have to leave South Brunswick when I can't afford to live here any more."

Taxes continue to rise. Water and sewer bills go up. And school costs escalate due to overdevelopment.

As far as municipal taxes go, the Township Council puts much of the blame on a cut in State funding. But, fiscal responsibility starts at home, and it's hard to claim "foul" when South Brunswick's budget and its needs were not even filed when the State was presenting its financial plan for the year.  New Jersey's budget is set in June and towns across the State need to have their "ducks in a row" before then so State officials can make some decisions about State aid.

It is now September, and South Brunswick has just passed its budget, months after the State set its funding priorities. While it might have made little difference, one does have to wonder how State officials feel about giving money to a Township that doesn't quite seem able to figure out its own books on time.

It's a question worth examining.

And a question definitely worth asking.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Apples and Oranges

Not All Open Space is the Same

This week's South Brunswick Post has an article about a moratorium on Open Space purchases in South Brunswick.  Once the Dog Park land deal is closed, Mayor Gambatese says the Township will have to evaluate the Open Space Trust Fund to determine what purchases can be made in the future.

The Mayor mentions the Pulda purchase and the Dog Park in one breath as the last two acquisitions.

Apples and oranges.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, working farmland adjacent to the 1200 acre Pigeon Swamp State Park,  had the potential to be developed as a huge housing complex--some 60 or more homes.  The Dog Park, in a best case scenario, might have been able to accommodate three houses.

The Pulda Farm/Van Dyke has no improvements requiring any kind of maintenance from the Township.  The Dog Park is going to require groundskeeping, electric bills, costs for the PortaJohn and other expenses estimated by the Township to be about $43,000 per year.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, like State Park next door, is currently free for all residents to enjoy for passive recreation--hiking, bike/horseback riding.  Residents who want to use the Dog Park will have to pay $20/ month or $100/year to use the facility.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, if it remains farmland, promises a fair rental income every year, at no cost to taxpayers or at any strain on Township staff.  The Dog Park may make some money for the Township--although, according to the Mayor "not this  year"--or it may fail to pay for itself.  There is no way to know how many dog owners will decide to join, or how much revenue that will actually generate.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm is 188 or so acres of relatively flat farmland. The Dog Park is just under 6 acres of driveway, parking lot, hills, rocks, and trees

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm's preservation took nearly six years of dedicated effort by dozens of South Brunswick residents with support from Township and County Open Space Committees, Preservation New Jersey, The Sierra Club, The County Agricultural Board, Raritan Baykeeper, The Lawrence Brook Watershed Partnership, and many other preservation groups and agencies.  The Dog Park took a matter of months and seems to have been primarily a decision made by Township officials without even a formal approval by the Open Space Advisory Committee.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm includes an historic farmhouse and two cemeteries dating back to the 1700's.  The Dog Park business has been in operation since 2001.

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm, at 188 acres, cost the Township $2.5 million which is an investment of about $14,000 an acre. (The rest of the cost was paid for by State and County Preservation funds.)   The Dog Park cost the Township $360,000 for about 6 acres, and investment of  approximately $60,000 an acre

The Pulda/Van Dyke Farm is the first Township Open Space purchase in the Eastern portion of South Brunswick. (Please note: The Pigeon Swamp State Park was a State Green Acres purchase back in the 1970's, well before South Brunswick even had an Open Space ordinance. Other parkland was purchased by Middlesex County.)   The Dog Park? Suffice it to say it is not the first purchase in the Western portion of the Township.

Apples and oranges? Indeed. I guess it just depends on which fruit you prefer as food for thought.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Welcome To Our Blog

Why We're Here

Debra and Jean hope to create an open dialog with the citizens of South Brunswick.  One of the main "planks" of our platform is to make government more accessible. Using the Internet is just one way to encourage people to ask questions and receive timely responses.

It's also a way for us to express our opinions and keep you informed on how we feel about local issues. 

To comment, you will need sign up for one of the many Internet accounts Blogger recognizes. We hope you will join us here to learn more about our campaign as the days go by.