February 22, 2023

Sourland Conservancy Urges Hopewell Zoning Board to Reject Hotel Application

To the Editor:

The Sourland Conservancy does not support the proposed “Hopewell” boutique hotel plan, and we respectfully urge the Hopewell Township Zoning Board to reject the application.

The Sourland region is home to the largest contiguous forest in Central New Jersey. Its mosaic of habitat is home to a rich diversity of animal and plant species, many rare or endangered. The entire Sourland Mountain Region is a designated Continental IBA ( Important Bird Area) macrosite, and is one of only 113 such sites in the United States. Millions of migratory birds rely on the Sourland forest’s food and shelter to survive their journey from South America to New England and Canada.

In 2020, the NJ Forest Service estimated that the 90-square-mile Sourland region was on track to lose over one million trees due to a single invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. Now, the spotted lanternfly threatens our forests and farms. Baldpate Mountain and Fiddlers Creek Preserve, adjacent to the property, provide critical habitat for birds, turtles, amphibians, pollinators, and other sensitive wildlife species whose numbers are already in steep decline.

Practicing good stewardship today is an uphill battle, and we must honor and defend the work of those who have gone before us to provide for the well-being of future generations. In 2002, Hopewell Township created a Master Plan to “protect, enhance, and maintain the best interests of current and future citizens.”

“Land use and management decisions made today will determine whether we squander these riches through
ill-conceived development and exploitation, or choose to be worthy stewards of the land and water, preserving what is best about the Township, and its critical resources, for future generations.”

The plan includes specific guidelines that are meant to protect the Mountain Resource Conservation District; to protect our single source aquifer groundwater, surface water, and the rural character of the region, as such most commercial development is prohibited. Critically, the D-Variance the applicant seeks will remain on the property when it changes owners. Future owners may not be concerned with the sensitive nature of the area. If this variance is granted, a precedent will be set in the region. Current and future residential property owners would have fewer barriers to convert their properties into a commercial property. This would be devastating to the ecology of this protected district.

The Sourland Conservancy asks that the Hopewell Township Zoning Board reject this application. It does not meet the burden of proof required to grant a D-Variance. Decades of hard work and resources spent to protect this region should not be thrown away. Citizens rely on those in positions of power to protect our valuable resources for the health and well-being of us all.

Laurie Cleveland
Executive Director, Sourland Conservancy
Princeton Avenue, Hopewell