After attending the reorganization meeting of the Cinnaminson Township committee last week, I realized that not a lot is going to change here in town. The way municipal government is set up, "progress" moves at a snail's pace, and how that progress is defined depends on who you are talking to. And while residents may vote for the people who will serve on the committee, the committee chooses who will serve on the zoning and planning boards, as well as the occasional ad hoc "advisory" committees. People chosen for the zoning and planning boards are picked because they are usually of the same mind set as the twp committee, and the same political party, and not surprisingly, are people who actively endorsed and supported the election of the committee members. I am not implying any impropriety - it's all open and above board, and is just the way things are done everywhere, not just here.
What I find interesting is that you won't see anyone elected to the committee or appointed to any of the boards who has a differing opinion from the powers that be. And that makes me wonder how the vision of Cinnaminson's future changed so drastically from what it was in the 80's to what it is today. If you look at the twp's master plan from 25-30 years ago, you wouldn't believe that it's the same town. Back then, both the township committee and the planning board were adamant about maintaining our open spaces as open spaces. They were actually quite specific about the land that has since become Cinnaminson Harbor. I cannot help but think that if that mindset had been maintained, we wouldn't be hearing about the horrendous flooding in the neighborhoods surrounding the Harbor development. The planning board back then seemed to understand the importance of keeping that land undeveloped. When was it decided that we needed to build as much as we could, to turn Rt.130 into a replica of Haddonfield Road or Rt.38/Rt.70? Maybe if we had continued to follow the old master plan, we wouldn't be hearing about serious flooding in 4 areas of the township, and we wouldn't be hearing about all of the vacant industrial zone properties and the need to revitalize the industrial areas. Maybe if we had done more to make existing businesses feel welcome and viable, we wouldn't have felt the need to bring in all the bright, shiny new businesses up on the highway. The township was very supportive of the light rail when it came through, and I think that was a good thing. Personally, I thought that they would have then concentrated on revitalizing the area surrounding the rail station. From a land use perspective (tainted by my environmental leanings), I would have thought putting a shopping mecca like "The Shoppes" near the light rail, in an area that was filled with vacant industrial zoned properties, would have been logical. Maybe if we had done that, and turned the Shoppes property into a park or single family homes with a fraction of the asphalt, the flooding in the neighborhoods between the shopping center and the Pennsauken Creek could have been avoided. Back in the 40s and 50s when that property was woods, there was no flooding problem in that area. Looking at the topography of that area and the amount of development/pavement, it's easy to see why there is flooding. All of that impervious ground cover means that stormwater is unable to gradually infiltrate down to the ground water, and runs off in torrants downhill towards the creek.
I feel somewhat guilty going off on the above rant, but it does bring me back to a couple of points that I want to make. The main point is that we all have to stay on top of the municipal government. We have to stay informed of their plans for our futures. We need to be aware of everything being discussed at meetings, not just what a couple of committee members or the media think we should know about. There is usually much more to stories, or at least one other side to them, than what gets reported. We have to hold them accountable for decisions that they make on our behalf. Yes, we elected them, but that doesn't mean they should have free rein to do things contrary to what the public wants. We are not children to be patted on the head and told to run along. Our opinions matter, and are worth listening to. The township committee can basically do whatever they want, because the public lets them. Rather than complain after the fact, more residents need to be speaking their minds while plans for our futures are in the early stages. We need more "watchdogs" - I urge all 3 of you who may actually read my blog to attend as many meetings as you can. While it may be an uphill battle to get our leaders to deal with our current problems, we have a chance to make a difference for future generations, if we will only take a stand now.