|Baptistown Blog -
by the webmaster, Alan Runfeldt
21:15 - Tuesday
This afternoon, the meeting to discuss development of a "Kingwood Town
Center" in Baptistown
took place. It was quite interesting. First of all, the Kingwood
Township municipal parking lot was past overfilled. Cars were actually
double-parked. Yes, the spectre of changes to the Baptistown Community
atmosphere certainly did draw some attention.
Inside, the room was packed, with well over 100 attendees - including
local home owners, renters, farmers and open land owners. Things were
orderly and polite. Reporters from at least two newspapers took notes
and will likely write stories. As soon as we receive links to their
articles, we will post them here.
The existence of this web site was announced publicly and some folks
wrote down the url.
So, from one attendees' point of view - and speaking
only as an observer, here's what happened:
Members of the community were first presented with
a slide slow outlining what development of a 'town center' might mean,
then asked to contribute ideas and opinions on the subject.
The slide show essentially presented the idea that new buildings could
integrated into an historical community like Baptistown and that the
architecure of new structures could follow
similar design themes to avoid any radical contrast between the visual
impact of the old and the new.
It's worth noting that Baptistown was
settled prior to the American Revolution and that many homes in the
community date from that time and sit on their original foundations.
Contrary to one expressed position that "change is inevitable", it can
be easily argued that Baptistown
really has not changed very much in the past 250 years, except that now
the homes have electricity and County Route 519 is paved. Homes in
Baptistown generally draw their water from private wells, some which
may be as old as the homes themselves.
Response by Baptistown residents to the idea of "developing Baptistown
as Kingwood's Town Center" were generally negative, with many speakers
supported by applause and encouraging comments. Some residents
expressed strong opposition while others took more of a "wait and see"
approach and were there mostly to listen and to learn, rather than
opinions before all the facts were laid out.
However, not too many facts were laid out besides the three critical
note: this is how I understand them, but there's no
guarantee that I got it right..
The concern seems to be that some developer may want to buy and
the land. If there is no COAH plan presented to the state, Kingwood
Township may lose control of the development of this property entirely.
- Development can be accomplished using architectual
styles that emulate the typical colonial architecture currently seen in
the area. Such design considerations would minimize the shock of seeing
currently open farmland developed into housing and commericial use.
- Kingwood Township is obligated by state law to create
plan to account for the township's required 87 "affordable housing
December of this year. If this COAH obligation is not addressed, the
state may declare the current zoning ordinances null,
thereby opening up the possibility of a developer building (anywhere)
without the normal constraints of a locally-administered zoning
- The essentially abandoned and currently
uninhabited and unmaintained 40+ acre Gamobosi farm which is located
just west of the intersection at 12 & 519 has
recently been placed
on the market - 40+ acres of farmland - asking price: $1.5 million
But although these do seem to be the three main issues to be
considered, many folks had other things on their minds. There was
concern that residents had not been effectively notified that this
meeting would be taking place. Two responses to that were to suggest
that the Township Comittee mail a postcard to all residents when a
meeting which may be addressing sensitive issues is scheduled. Another
suggestion was a sign to be posted outside of the Municipal Building
clearly announcing any such meetings and their agenda. Committe agreed
to consider both options in the future.
speaker accused the administration of some unclear poitical agenda,
others simply voiced
strong opposition to the idea of the Gambosi property being developed
in a way - or, for that matter, any changes being made - which would
change the atmosphere and character of the
Baptistown area. Environmental impact was another topic covered. A
development of this scale would suggest the need for a sewer system and
sewer treatment plant, neither of which would be lightly undertaken.
Reporters were there as well, including one from the Star-Ledger. As
as we find - or receive - links to their stories, we'll post them for
now here are
some of my own questions:
Is there an
"Agenda" or simply a situation being recognized
has having potential impact on the
What brought this issue up to begin with?
Does someone have an agenda and a plan they want pushed through, or
did the Township Committee simply see a situation developing that
required some well-thought-out response and one for which community
feedback would be appropriate and would be helpful?
We don't really know yet, but this is a question on many minds. Some
opinions seem to come out of political interests, some others seem to
endorse a simple preservation of the status quo.
Although the point was made that some attendees only heard of this
meeting at the last minute, I can attest to the fact that I was there
because Committee Member Elaine Nieman took the time to personally
visit homes in Baptistown and deliver a printed flyer to all residents,
clearly informing us of this upcoming meeting. In addition, she took
the time to discuss the matter with me and explain the issue at hand.
However, Kingwood residents beyond the Baptistown area were expected to
see public notices in the Del Val News and Express-Times to be
From the official "Agenda" document posted on the Kingwood Township web
Adequate notice of
this meeting was provided in accordance with the Open Public
Meetings Act by publication of the
notice in the Delaware Valley News and Express
Times on June 26, 2008 and by telefaxing
copies of the notice to the Courier News
and Star Ledger on June 20, 2008. Copies
of the notice were also posted in the
Kingwood Township Municipal Building and
Baptistown Post Office on June 20, 2008.
Nonethess, the feeling was expressed that
this 'official' form of notification was inadequate to reach all
interested parties and that the mailing of postcards would help keep
the community informed.
- Development of a "town center" on the Gomobsi farm
would require a some sort of water source and sewer system - septic
tanks can handle limited waste; a sewer treatment plant might be needed
to covert this farmland if it were to be developed as a Town Center.
- A sewer plant on the Gombosi property - or, for that
matter in many areas of Kingwood Township would entail many complex
- Affordable Housing to meet COAH obligations can be
accomplished without developing a new residential complex near
- Residents of Baptistown - as well as residents from
elsewhere in Kingwood Township - are interested and are concerned about
any plans to create a "Town Center" in Baptistown and wish to be kept
fully informed of any borough action on this matter.
- Change is inevitable and it is better to have planned
change with the input of the community than to have changes made which
may do some harm to the community as it is.
- The Township Committee must do more to inform all
Kingwood residents when such meetings are scheduled.
- Baptistown might qualify for some sort of 'Historical
Area' designation which could serve to protect the community from
- The current zoning ordinance requires two acres of
property to build on an existing road in Kingwood Township. To build on
a new road requires seven acres.
- The Gombosi farm fronts on Route 12 with some access
- The term "affordable housing" as it applies to
Hunterdon County would qualify a family of four with an income of $77k
or a couple with income less than $63k as of 'moderate' income.
- For more about NJ COAH. See: ABOUT COAH
note: on the state's page about COAH - under the
heading "The COAH Process", the website states that "New
Jersey municipalities enter the COAH process voluntarily."
contrasts with the main theme of this meeting - that COAH was an
unfunded mandate by the state which Kingwood Township was obligated to
fulfill. This needs more clarification. update: Once a municipality enters COAH
voluntarily it IS bound by COAH rules. We'll get some more information
about this and explain it here soon.
Watch for more
information to be posted here as it becomes available.
The Gombosi Farm as viewed from Route
12 West near Baptistown