Reader: Municipal merge will force development in rural Wantage

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:38

    When a merger between Sussex Borough and Wantage Township was first conceived, it was suggested that by consolidating there would be considerable cost savings involved. Taxpayers would pay less. A consolidation committee was formed by both municipalities to study the feasibility of forming one town out of two. This past week, the committee voted to move forward on the plan to merge. The funny thing is, they also revealed that when merged, taxes for Wantage residents will go up, not down. But they went ahead and voted yes anyway. How come? It has been acknowledged that cost savings are no longer the motivation behind a merger. The committee realizes that the state on NJ wants our towns to merge. They also realize that the state of NJ is the main obstacle in preventing sewer service from being installed in portions of Wantage south of Sussex Borough. A deal is in the making... “We agree to merge and NJ agrees to let the sewers in.” There is no longer even a pretense that any meaningful savings will be achieved by merging. Those behind this plan say they want increased “economic activity” to occur. That’s a nice way of saying “massive new development.” Some will tell you that the plan is only to bring commercial development to town. Even if that were their true intent, it is not permitted by law.... NJ law states that when commercial development is built, low income residential must also be built. Low income residential (for that matter, any residential) is a money loser for a community. Housing never pays as much in taxes as it requires in services. Save Rural Wantage was formed several years ago specifically to oppose massive new development in the southern portion of Wantage. We won that battle then and have been key partners in other winning struggles since. Preventing 200-foot power lines from crisscrossing Wantage was one major victory scored last year. We find it frustrating that we are forced to fight this same battle all over again. But since the pro-development forces have found a clever way to bring this ugly monster back to life, we have no choice. Michael Garrett Founding member, Save Rural Wantage