Editors Note: In this election, three candidates are vying for two open seats on the Township Committee. The Delaware Township Post has asked each candidate to respond to nine questions on various topics of importance to Delaware Township residents. We’re pleased to have the participation of all candidates this year.
Candidates and their responses are listed in alphabetical order.
About the Candidates
Roger R. Locandro
Occupation: Husband, Father, Business Owner, Nurseryman, Tree Mover, Certified Organic Farmer
Education: BS Economics, & Graduate studies in Economics, Rutgers University
Party affiliation: Republican
List your participation on any township boards, committees, commissions, groups, etc.:
- Delaware Township Environmental Commission
- Delaware Township Shade Tree Commission, Chair
- New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Assoc.
- New Jersey Shade Tree Federation
Experience in elected office:
I haven’t been elected yet, however, my degree and continued studies in business, economics and natural resources provide me with a unique perspective on spending and grants while serving as a volunteer in municipal government.
Relevant Professional experience:
I am both a small business owner and a successful farmer. I know what it takes to make serious spending decisions while families are depending on me. We, as a township, need to get a grip on our spending.
I would like to thank The Post for the opportunity to participate in this forum.
I pose my own question or thought first.
Isn’t it time to bring our government back to us, here at the level closest to the people involved, our town? We need to bring back, fair and balanced government.
Susan D. Lockwood
Occupation: Supervising Environmental Specialist
Education: BS State University of NY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
MS Penn State University College of Agriculture
Party affiliation: Democrat
List your participation on any township boards, committees, commissions, groups, etc.:
- Delaware Township Planning Board: 1988-Current
- Delaware Township Environmental Commission: 1987- Current
- Delaware Township Open Space Committee: Inception- Current
- Delaware Township Newsletter Editor: Inception- Current
- Delaware Township Historical Society: Inception-Current
- Delaware Township Cross-Acceptance (State Plan for Redevelopment) Subcommittee 1990-Current
- Delaware Township Litter March Volunteer 1990-Current
- Delaware Township Recreation Commission: 1997
Experience in elected office: Delaware Township Committee 1997-2003 (Mayor: 2003), 2006-Present (Mayor: 2008)
Relevant Professional experience:
As an employee for the State Department of Environmental Protection for 25 years, I have served the public providing public outreach and education to other professionals, elected officials and citizens statewide. As a result, I am sensitive to public concerns, and very aware of how government actions affect the public.
My husband Russ and I came to Delaware Township in 1986 to buy our first home. We were seeking space and an escape from the hustle that typifies New Jersey. We found much more than that. We found a community that was blessed with people who had the foresight to protect the farms and natural beauty of Delaware Township. From my first volunteer position on the Environmental Commission and throughout my tenure as both a volunteer and elected official, my goal is to emulate their work by protecting our citizens and the resources that set Delaware Township apart from the rest of New Jersey.
Occupation: Deputy Mayor, Delaware Township Committee
Education: BA; International Studies & Political Science, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA 1988; MPH, City University of New York (CUNY), 1992; Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University, NY – current
Party affiliation: Democrat
List your participation on any township boards, committees, commissions, groups, etc.:
- 2006 – present: Delaware Township Committee. (2007 Mayor, Delaware Township. 2008 Deputy Mayor, Delaware Township).
- 2006 – present: Finance Committee, Recreation Committee, COAH Committee (affordable housing), Zoning Review Committee, Planning Board (2008), Liaison to Delaware Township School Board of Education, and Liaison to Delaware Township Senior Citizens.
- DTAA Basketball Coach (2005 – present): all levels
- DTAA Soccer Coach (2008)
- Flemington Little Devils Girls Lacrosse Coach (2007 – present)
- DTS Middle School Field Hockey Assistant Coach (2005 – present)
Experience in elected office: Delaware Township Committee (2006 – present)
Relevant Professional experience: (Editor’s note: no response provided)
I would like to continue to serve on the Delaware Township Committee for several reasons. Primarily, I would like to move forward on the important preservation projects that have been initiated in the last 3 years. We have preserved over 600 acres alone this past year and, with several projects, we were able to partner with other organizations to dramatically decrease (or even eliminate) the Township’s financial contribution to these projects. Secondly, I would like to finish the year long study regarding our current zoning strategy and preservation needs. Additionally, as part of this process, it is important to develop a long term strategy to meet our affordable housing needs and obligations. Perhaps most importantly, I would like to continue to work on Township Committee to encourage an open and respectful government process whereby all residents are part of the discussions, decision-making processes, and all have an opportunity to participate. We have been very successful in instituting several mechanisms to help this process over the last 3 years. We now have a Township sponsored website that details community events, information, agendas, and minutes from meetings. Also, we reorganized the format for Township Committee meetings so that individuals may comment on agenda items as we discuss them as opposed to the end of the meeting after the decisions have been made. Moreover, we have appointed all those who have offered to serve and volunteer to positions on committees, commissions, and Boards. Over the last three years, we have tried to meet the needs and challenges of our residents in a respectful and honest process that we believe promotes the best outcomes.
1. What sets you apart from your challenger?
Economic times are rapidly changing, fair and balanced choices need to be evaluated carefully.
Since being elected in 2006, I’ve helped preserve more than 600 acres of open space despite dwindling State funding; fought to maintain State aid to small municipalities, critical for controlling property taxes; battled road projects that would change the character of the township; and changed meeting procedures ensuring citizen participation.
Perhaps the most important difference is my involvement in DTAA and the local school, Delaware Township School. Since my children both actively participate in the sports program through DTAA and their many activities at DTS, I am extremely visible and approachable to many Delaware Township families (and grandparents too!). This is helpful because it enables me to stay connected to issues of concern for families and I am available for more general discussions of issues regarding the Township. There are many talks over coffee, soccer, and basketball games that occur and enable residents to get an update or information on issues that are important to them but they may not be able to attend our meetings.
2. How has the Township Committee been effective this year?
I worry about how we measure effectiveness, about the $9,000,000 debt of this township, and about the spending and policies that have gotten us here.
This year’s Township Committee has been the most productive Committee I have served on. The Committee completed a Water Quality Management Plan, and by the end of the year will have completed a thorough evaluation of all zoning options. These are the two most critical factors for planning for the future of the township.
In addition, the Committee submitted an application for historic designation for Sergeantsville, and began a second application for the village of Rosemont with the goal of protecting these areas from well-meaning but undesirable County road projects. In addition to joining with other municipalities in a lawsuit opposing the recent changes to affordable housing requirements, the Committee has kept pace with all changes required by the Council on Affordable Housing, settled lawsuits associated with COAH, and actively sought and obtained COAH partners.
In addition, the Committee submitted a new, successful application to the Department of Agriculture for future farmland preservation and was able to protect several hundred more acres of valuable farmland and open space using cost-sharing opportunities with non-profits.
Given the initial budgetary cut-backs from the State, we successfully lobbied to have most of our funding restored. Additionally, we were able to petition the State to remove two very onerous parts of the new COAH legislation that would have imposed a hefty tax on all agricultural buildings and farm labor quarters. We have expanded shared services with DTS to save money on technology.
3. What could the current administration have done differently?
They could have controlled spending, utilized our employee resources more efficiently, controlled outside expenses, stopped, slowed and better prepared for the debt that they were amassing for the township. I believe government should be transparent and that the citizens should not be surprised by proposed ordinances and increasing debt. The outcry from our community over the proposed stream corridor ordinance demonstrates the disconnect between my opponents and the community.
I believe the Township Committee is doing everything that it can and should be doing.
I would liked to have moved further along in the zoning strategy discussions and started the research and dialogue about designing some more creative solutions (other than TDR) to meet the many objectives of the Zoning Review Committee. I believe, however, that an intensive and introspective review process can not be rushed and part of this “process” is allowing it to unfold at its own pace thus encouraging thorough vetting of ideas.
4. What would you like to accomplish if [re-]elected?
One of the things I would like to do is; to bring fair and balanced government back to Delaware Township.
The Township has many projects in progress. I would like to see the successful addition of Sergeantsville, Rosemont and also Sandbrook to the Historic Register, participate in the final decision on future zoning, and work to ensure that small Townships like Delaware are recognized, by State legislators, as the efficient and cost-effective places they are.
I would like to continue the zoning review process, finish our Wastewater Management Plan, work with the DTMUA to decide what is the best plan to meet current and anticipated future permitting requirements and stabilize the user rates for the future, continue to efficiently manage the tight municipal budget through shared services, targeted cutbacks, partnering with volunteers to raise needed funds and provide services where appropriate, and continue to preserve open space, primarily through partner relationships with nonprofit organizations and County & State agencies.
5. What are the three most important problems facing Delaware Township? If [re-]elected, how do you propose to face them?
Tax burdens, preservation of our rural character, and the costs & benefits associated with life here in Delaware Township. Consistent, responsible spending, promotion of agriculture and its connection to open space, promoting sound economic theory and policy to prevent the tax burden from driving seniors and young families away from Delaware Township.
1. Taxes: Pursue more grant funding and shared services when they will save money for property taxpayers. Continue to fight State mandates and go to Trenton to demand our fair share of municipal aid.
2. Open space/farmland preservation. Continue to leverage tax dollars by partnering with non-profit groups.
3. Threats to our rural character: Work with other communities to resolve affordable housing in a way that works for the Township. Continue to educate the County about the Township’s intent to protect our rural heritage.
- Tax Burden. The biggest challenge has been and will continue to be the enormous tax burden for our residents. The most difficult task is balancing the enormous needs of the residents and the municipality and not increasing the tax burden. There are no easy answers but it is imperative that we maximize our shared services with other municipalities, the State and County, and the school districts to work collectively and efficiently to meet today’s economic challenges. Additionally, we must continue to seek and apply for grants from government and non-governmental agencies to help achieve our objectives. We have been extremely successful the last two years in securing grants and this must continue. Moreover, we need to tap our volunteer pool to utilize their strengths and expertise. We have been very lucky to have a great group of dedicated volunteers who give countless hours and personal time to the many committees, boards, and projects in the Township. We will continue to encourage all those interested in joining a committee or becoming more active in our town. Lastly, it is extremely important that local officials balance today’s need for a lean and efficient operating budget while simultaneously planning appropriately for future needs and obligations.
- Open Space and Farmland Preservation: This issue remains one of the most important issues that concern many residents. Through a cooperative relationship with non-profit organizations and the HC Open Space Preservation program, we have made tremendous strides in acquiring important parcels for preservation. Additionally, we have recently finalized acquisitions that have been “in the works” for some time. Whereas we are pleased with our open space acquisitions and proud of the municipality’s number one ranking for preserved farmland in Hunterdon County, we remain concerned with the availability of future funding from the State and County programs. In light of the unstable financial future and ambiguity of future funding for SADC, we must come up with creative ways to both preserving large parcels of land and encouraging a strong and stable agricultural industry. Important to this process is the continuation and expansion of partnerships with non-profit land preservation organizations, Hunterdon County, and State initiatives. We will not buy our way out of development.
- Meeting our affordable housing requirements and other unfunded State mandates. The municipality faces significant challenges to meeting our COAH obligations. As many are aware, we have joined the League of Municipalities legal challenge to the new rules and we anticipate that the case will be reviewed in the fall. We remain committed to working relentlessly to advocate for our residents that have been unfairly burdened by recent changes to the COAH rules and continue to pressure the officials in Trenton to address the severe inadequacies in the current regulations. Nevertheless, we are obligated to submit a revised plan according to the adopted rules by the end of the year. Obviously, this will take some ingenuity and creativity to come up with a viable and realistic plan to meet our new obligations (54 units). I am currently working on this with other members of our COAH committee.
6. In the past year there has been a growing awareness of the impact that County road and bridge construction can have on the historic character of the township. Sergeantsville, Rosemont, Sandbrook and Headquarters are considered eligible for historic designation by the State Historic Preservation Office.
What are your thoughts on this? What if any role do you think the Township Committee should have in historic designation?
The TC needs to represent all the people. By bringing these items to the public, a better understanding of the processes, the costs & benefits which will help residents make their decisions. We also have to factor in the safety of our residents, children and guests.
The Township Committee has already taken an active role in Historic Designation for Sergeantsville, and Rosemont and have committed similar action for Sandbrook. The Township Committee has formed a subcommittee to work with a professional consultant to prepare the applications for designation.
In addition, the Township Committee has provided funding for the consultant to prepare the application on its behalf. It is appropriate for the Township Committee to take an active role in this process since the listing benefits the Township as a whole, is a government process, and requires substantial amounts of public outreach to ensure the success of the application.
Most importantly, it is important to make sure that residents within a district want to be in the historic district.
Outreach to individual owners is imperative as is providing accurate information about how historic designation may/may not affect individual homeowners. Once this has been accomplished, and a majority of homeowners agree to the designation, then I think the municipality should help the process of designation.
I favor historic designation particularly for those hamlets located on county roads and near county bridges because it is the only mechanism local municipalities have to control unwanted road and bridge widening projects that negatively impact both the rural character of the hamlet and individual homeowners.
7. Over the last year and a half, the Zoning Review Committee (ZRC) has organized numerous public presentations and discussions about the necessity to change zoning in the township. The ZRC has explained and offered Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) as a possible solution. In addition, the Planning Board’s Professional Planner has reported that septic dilution requirements indicate a necessity to reduce permissable density in the township. The ZRC has suggested down-zoning (larger minimum lot sizes) as another method to address this necessity.
What are your thoughts on the implementation of zoning changes in general and on these two methods in particular?
The new hot topic is “nitrogen dilution rates”. Nitrogen is one of the most abundant elements on the planet. 78-80% of the air we breathe is nitrogen. Focusing on diluting it, seems futile. Instead we should focus on how to utilize this as a resource. There are septic systems that bring nutrients to plant material. I was instrumental in bringing the experts from the DEP & the Water Authority to the Environmental Commission over 5 years ago. They demonstrated the benefits of alternate waste water techniques. These systems help protect our ground water resources while utilizing the nutrients available.
The Zoning Review Committee has done an excellent job collecting and organizing data that will help the Township in many ways in addition to helping with the final decision on zoning. With the remainder of this year, I would like to see the Zoning Review Committee explore the one remaining option: non-contiguous clustering. Once this final piece has been presented, all data can be discussed and a final decision made.
In concept, I think that TDR has much to offer in terms of environmental sustainability, the ability to preserve a large amount of open space, provide more diversity in housing options, and reduce sprawl.
However, I have several strong concerns about implementing a TDR program in Delaware Township. I think the density of the receiving site(s) will be too much to bear for a rural community. In the long run, I believe it is a smart strategy, but in the short term, it is asking present day residents to bear the burden of 25 years of growth in a relatively short amount of time. This may be too much.
Additionally, in my opinion, there are not enough incentives from the State to go through the onerous Plan Endorsement process, TDR Planning Process, absorbing the increase in growth and its subsequent costs to taxpayers over the short term (i.e. increased services, school size, etc), and the continued burden of COAH mandates. At the very least, for towns that agree to TDR there should not be any further affordable housing mandates for that municipality. The State has yet to understand that there is not enough “upside” to TDR to encourage small municipalities to move forward with this plan.
Nevertheless, there remains serious land use and planning issues that need to be addressed in the next several years. Clearly, the amount of preservation dollars from the State is drying up and it is not expected to be refunded. This will become an issue as the State has been a 60% contributor to most farmland preservation acquisitions. Farmland and open space preservation remain a top concern of a majority of residents and local officials will need to maximize our local open space dollars effectively through partnerships with nonprofits and other agencies.
The lack of diversity in housing options remains a problem. We must find a creative solution that will incorporate different types of housing so that retired couples, single people, and young families can live here. Some other important issues that need to be addressed in any zoning change are the unmet goals of the Master Plan and State Mandates – particularly the Wastewater Management Plan which is currently under review at DEP under the “old” rules (regulations that were in effect prior to May 2008).
I would like the ZRC to focus its efforts on evaluating some alternative strategies (other than TDR) that may be useful in addressing many of these concerns. I think it is important to remember that no strategy or approach is a panacea to address all of the issues set out above.
Every decision and approach will have benefits and costs. It is our job as elected officials to fully understand these benefits/costs and present them to the public for discussion and reflection. After lengthy discussions with the public, it will be incumbent on local officials to make a decision.
An additional point that I want to make is that I do not support down zoning (larger lots) without some sort of compensation to land owners. Land owner equity needs to be part of any zoning strategy.
8. Many municipalities struggle to comply with affordable housing mandates.
How well is Delaware Township doing to meet its COAH requirements?
What could we do differently?
We need to send a better message back to Trenton. These mandates are disproportionate. We need to protect our residents & our community first. My mother was a teacher here in Delaware Township. Shouldn’t there be an opportunity for every teacher, township & business employee to live here and be a part of the community?
In addition to entering a lawsuit with several other municipalities opposed to the new affordable housing mandates, Delaware Township has been actively working to satisfy previous affordable housing mandates. We were complying, or had taken action to comply with all requirements but now must re-evaluate our plan based upon the newly adopted requirements.
The Township also recently terminated an agreement that had been in place for nearly a decade with an organization that failed to deliver promised affordable housing and is actively pursing a replacement organization. The Township will revise its plan to meet the State-mandated December 31, 2008 deadline.
We are actively writing our new COAH plan – it is due 12/31/08 while simultaneously engaged in litigation against COAH via the NJLOM lawsuit which we are a partner. It would be irresponsible of any local official to disregard our obligation to submit a new COAH plan under the new rules since it would put the municipality in a vulnerable position to a “builder’s remedy” lawsuit.
9. This year’s ballot will allow voters to decide on a proposal by the Hunterdon County Freeholders to extend indefinitely the existing tax for open space preservation that would otherwise expire at the end of 2009. The tax, 3 cents per $100 of assessed value, i.e. $150 annually for a property assessed at $500,000, would be used for a variety of uses.
Please explain your position on this ballot question.
I am glad you posed that question. Many people are not aware of my commitment to farmland preservation. My family has over 300 acres of preserved farmland, helping and hoping to pass on the legacy of agriculture here in Delaware Township. My last farm I have offered 6 times for preservation. We also have a 162 acre organic farm in Delaware Township that we purchased from the SADC after it was preserved and then went through the organic certification process.
But isn’t the real question about whether it’s practical to extend the tax indefinitely or allow residents to review it periodically?
It is important that this Ballot Question be approved. The question would not affect the amount of the taxes withheld for open space by the County but would ensure that the trust remains in place and the assessment for open space continues. The Township frequently cost-shares with the County for the purchase of open space. Therefore, it will benefit the residents of Delaware Township to renew the trust fund.
The lack of a “sunset” clause is problematic and I agree with Freeholder Mehlick that there may be a point in time that Hunterdon County residents may no longer wish to support this tax. However, the language in the ballot question allows monies to be used for other purposes other than acquisition, like maintenance. Issues regarding maintaining open space parcels in the County have long been a problem for the Freeholders. Moreover, it does not increase the open space tax for residents.
Having said that, I remain concerned about the lack of a “sunset” provision and I believe that voters should have the opportunity to reevaluate this tax periodically as it may become difficult to sustain over the long run. Therefore, I do not support the ballot question as it is currently drafted.