Dear Editor:

I would like to thank all the residents who attended and watched last Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting on over-development and legislative solutions with Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi and I. If you were unable to attend, I encourage you to watch the meeting on SPTV or the Township’s Facebook page at ().

The meeting was a real eye-opener for many of our residents. It is not hard to make the case that the 2,655 potential housing units that Scotch Plains would have to build to meet its affordable housing requirement in next seven years without any consideration of the impact on schools, infrastructure, traffic, safety, etc. is not good planning and will lead to rampant over-development and higher costs.

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As I have said, we are not against affordable housing. When I campaigned in 2016, it was very obvious that there is an affordable housing need for low and moderate income families, seniors, millennials, and those with special needs.  But the current Court driven process will result in mindless building of residential units leading to over-development, in many cases breaking the resources of municipalities and not solving the affordable housing need -- a result we have seen in other Court driven decisions such as the Abbott v. Burke school funding decision, which caused grossly inequitable school funding for Scotch Plains while not fixing the education needs of our state over the last 30 years.

New Jersey needs to start solving its problems and that will not happen until we reverse bad Court decisions. We need to unite and demand that the Governor and our State Legislators come up with real workable solutions; otherwise like many New Jerseyans, we will vote with our feet and leave.   

This is not a partisan issue. From my short experience as Mayor, I know we are a caring, inclusive town, and we will do our best to meet the affordable housing requirements imposed on us. But if we do not address the unrealistic affordable housing process now, we will be facing another crisis in 2025 when the Courts will again impose another unrealistic affordable housing number on Scotch Plains.

Assemblywoman Schepisi laid out a plan to fix the broken affordable housing process and we should urge the Governor and State Legislators to consider it. Only the people can make real change happen. Assemblywoman Schepisi has indicated to me that bus trips to the State Capitol for a rally for reform will be organized in the Fall of 2018. I will keep the residents of Scotch Plains informed of this and will look for your participation. 

In the meantime, I ask you to join me in calling on Governor Phil Murphy (609-292-6000) and Scotch Plains’ Senator Nick Scutari (908-587-0404 or senscurari@njleg.org), Assemblyman Jim Kennedy (732-943-2660 or asmkennedy@njleg.org), and Assemblywoman Linda Carter (aswcarter@njleg.org) to support the reform legislation such as S-2386/A-1648

Al Smith
Scotch Plains Mayor