EDITORIAL: Change on the horizon in the Somerset Hills

Hundreds of new homes and apartments are expected to become available in the Somerset Hills towns in the months and years ahead, primarily as the result of state mandates requiring housing that’s affordable to lower-income families.

Some of these new developments are also expected to include restaurants, shops, park areas and other public gathering places. The details of the projects have been thoroughly reviewed by local planning board members, volunteers from the communities who’ve spent countless hours at long meetings over many months to help refine the proposals.

Working with town engineers and other experts, in addition to professionals hired by the applicants, they’ve often called for revisions to improve the plans and make them a better fit for their communities.

In some cases, the local planners have been criticized by residents who oppose the pending changes to their towns. But their hands have largely been tied by legal requirements that prevent them from outright rejecting the development applications, even though they may prefer to do just that.

While few are happy with the affordable housing mandates facing New Jersey towns, it seems the best course of action is to work cooperatively with the developers to meet the requirements while minimizing the impact on the towns.

Bedminster officials in particular have demonstrated that ability and helped design plans for a 160-unit apartment project that appears poised to become an attractive and beneficial addition to the Pluckemin Village area.

The application for land off Route 202-206 was approved by the township Land Use Board last Thursday. Despite already having hundreds of affordable homes, mostly at The Hills development, Bedminster was still required to provide additional affordable rentals. This project will help satisfy that mandate, and also provide retail space and other community gathering areas that may help revitalize that section of town. Traffic improvements are also included.

It seems an example of making the best of what could be a bad situation.

In Bernards Township, a new apartment complex is nearing completion at the site of a former supermarket at the Dewy Meadow mall off King George Road. That project, called The Enclave at Dewy Meadows, will be home to 198 apartments, including 30 income-restricted rentals. The number of market rentals seems high in comparison to the affordable ones, but is unfortunately a standard practice that gives developers a financial incentive to build the less expensive units.

The project includes a swimming pool, clubhouse and playground for the residents. While no public gathering areas or retail space is included, having new residents here should help keep existing businesses at Dewy Meadow viable.

We also like the fact that the affordable units are scattered among the other apartments in the project instead of being isolated in a separate building, which is often the case. It’s a more inclusionary concept that hopefully brings residents of various income levels together.

Plans for a 134-unit “inclusionary” development on Route 202 in Far Hills are also nearing approval but have faced considerable public opposition.

Bernardsville officials have received state approval for several smaller affordable housing projects in the borough, and are looking to include affordable units in the proposed Quimby Village redevelopment project, which is envisioned to include new retail buildings and public spaces.

The changes that will be coming to the quiet Somerset Hills towns may not be to everyone’s liking, but if done properly, will hopefully fit well into the established communities and even provide some long-term benefits.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

Jacobs to continue as Bedminster Mayor in 2022

BEDMINSTER TWP. – Mayor Larry Jacobs was informally chosen by his Township Committee colleagues on Monday, Nov. 15, to serve a fourth year as mayor for 2022.

Jacobs was the unanimous choice to lead the all-Republican governing body, which annually holds a straw poll after the November general election to determine the mayor for the following year.

Committeewoman Gina Fernandez “proudly” nominated Jacobs, with Committeeman R. Colin Hickey seconding the nomination.

Participating in the straw poll were Jacobs, Fernandez, Hickey, Committeeman Doug Stevinson and Committeewoman Renee Mareksi. All are Republicans.

Jacobs thanked his committee colleagues “for your vote of confidence.”

Later in the meeting, committee members congratulated the mayor on the vote as well as the general election victory that he and Mareski had in seeking new three-year committee terms.

“You’ve done an exemplary job,” said Hickey.

Jacobs again expressed gratitude. “There’s a lot to accomplish in the next year so let’s get to it,” he said.

He is expected to be formally chosen and sworn in at the committee’s annual reorganization meeting, which is held in the first week in January.

A resident of Hillside Avenue, Jacobs is in his ninth year on the committee and is its senior member in length of service. He is an environmental attorney.

One topic that didn’t come up was where the committee will hold the reorganization meeting.

Except for this past January, when the township was in the depths of the pandemic, the committee has started the new year with a public gathering usually at a local club or restaurant offering optional food and drink.

The January 2020 reorganization meeting was held at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club on Rattlesnake Bridge Road after being held at Trump National Golf Club on Lamington Road each year from 2017 to 2019.

This past January, pandemic-related restrictions on indoor gathering led the committee to reorganize at town hall in a largely virtual format with no public present. Only Jacobs, Hickey and Mareski were physically present, while Stevinson and Fernandez participated from home via Zoom.

Committee members said just after Monday’s meeting that they planned to hold the 2022 reorganization meeting in-person but had yet to choose a locale.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Jacobs, Mareski ‘proven leaders’ in Bedminster

TO THE EDITOR: On Nov. 2, the voters will once again have the opportunity to protect the quality of life we’ve all come to expect and enjoy in Bedminster by re-electing Mayor Larry Jacobs and Committeewoman Renee Mareski to the Township Committee.

We live in a time where the words “politics” and “politicians” evoke emotional and dismissive responses from both sides of the aisle, often without consideration of the issue at hand. And while dysfunction and partisanship are words often used to describe events coming out of Washington D.C., and Trenton, the same cannot be said of local government here in Bedminster.

As mayor, Larry is constantly thinking of ways to improve the quality of life for all residents. While Bedminster’s low taxes, rural feel and community spirit define the township, it’s Larry’s foresight and ability to think steps ahead that enables us to continue to deliver effective and efficient government in the most cost effective manner.

Larry is a proven leader. Years ago, he had a vision for a Bedminster farmer’s market. That vision is now a reality that we all enjoy throughout the summer and fall seasons.

When faced with multiple accidents at the intersection of Rt. 202/206 and River Road, it was Mayor Jacobs who coordinated with the state Department of Transportation to change the timing of the traffic signals, posting of additional signage for traffic flow and painting of the travel lanes to ensure public safety.

Under Jacobs’ direction and leadership, we have also seen increased electric service reliability as well as faster internet connectivity in The Hills. He leaves no stone unturned in attempting to improve the lives of all who call Bedminster home.

Of equal importance, Larry has his finger on the pulse of Bedminster’s future. He has proactively engaged with county officials to commission reports as to the future uses of the AT&T campus should AT&T relocate operations in the future. As our top taxpayer in town, we all hope that AT&T retains its presence in Bedminster, but it is far from a guarantee, and Larry’s efforts have provided a pathway forward in the event AT&T relocates elsewhere.

Jacobs has also spearheaded numerous efforts to ensure the continued viability of Bedminster’s affordable housing program, which provides countless individuals the opportunity to prosper through home ownership. I am thankful for his leadership and guidance and can say without reservation that he has more than earned my vote to continue leading our wonderful community.

Mareski has similarly championed efforts to improve and augment the residents’ quality of life. She has a passion for the environment and is committed to working with our community members to deliver new and improved programs and services across numerous areas.

Working with interested community members, Renee has been instrumental in developing a new community gardens project, which we expect to break ground on in the coming months.

Renee also worked closely with representatives from Community in Crisis to help guide us through various issues relating to the state’s legalization of cannabis and our decision to opt out of the licensing rules and regulations relating thereto.

Perhaps most importantly, as more of us work from home, there has been an increased need for fast and reliable internet connectivity. Renee has rolled up her sleeves to work with Altice, the three master associations and all homeowner’s associations to implement Altice’s commitment to bring fiber service to The Hills neighborhoods, which will be a game changer for the improvement of internet connectivity.

I will be enthusiastically voting for both Mayor Jacobs and Committeewoman Mareski at the polls on Nov. 2, and I encourage my fellow Bedminster community members to do the same.

Ski Hill Drive
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: The writer is a member of the Bedminster Township Committee. This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

EDITORIAL: Somerset Hills local endorsements

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters in Bernardsville, Bernards Township, Bedminster Township and Far Hills will decide election contests for municipal and school board positions.

In Bedminster Township, we support the re-election bids of Republican incumbents Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski.

While their Democratic challengers bring intriguing international credentials and solid business backgrounds to the race, the incumbents have proven to be dedicated volunteers who understand the complexities of governing, particularly the unique challenges faced by Bedminster regarding the state’s demanding and often confusing affordable housing laws and regulations.

In addition, they have led a team that’s preparing for future challenges, including the possible loss of AT&T, the township’s largest commercial tenant, and addressed lingering issues facing residents of The Hills such as utilities problems.

The Republicans have also shown responsiveness to the community’s needs during times of crisis, including the pandemic, the tragic loss of a local police sergeant to COVID-19 and a devastating fire in The Hills development. They have earned re-election.

Editor’s Note: The entire article with endorsements for neighboring towns appears in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Jacobs, Mareski have been ‘extremely proactive’ in Bedminster

TO THE EDITOR: This past week’s issue of The Bernardsville News featured the headline, “Affordable housing focus of campaign” in reference to the race for Bedminster Township Committee.


As I read further, I came to understand that it was the issue being created by the local Democrats running for office.

I sit on many boards in Bedminster, including serving as the chair of the Bedminster Land Use Board, president of my local condo association and treasurer of the Hills Village North Master Association. I’ve never seen or heard from these folks, and by their own admission, they do not serve in any voluntary capacities with the town, their homeowner associations, the Bedminster School or any other organizations.

Yet they are defining the issues? I highly doubt it. Based on the article, both were hard pressed to identify actual issues in dispute.

The fact is, both the Bedminster Township Committee and the Land Use Board with leadership from Mayor Larry Jacobs have been extremely proactive in anticipating, as opposed to reacting to, the real issues facing our community.

Over the past 18 months, the pandemic has introduced a host of issues that Bedminster had to deal with head-on. Our residents have faced food challenges, loss of income and threats to their very health.

In each and every instance, the mayor and committee have risen to the challenge and served the interests of the community at large, be it in the form of a local food pantry, vaccine clinics, COVID information resources or access to parks and trails in the midst of crushing lockdowns.

Some of the problems facing us come from external sources we have little direct control over, but we work them aggressively regardless. For example, persistent power outages in The Hills and poor cable service are two issues that the Township Committee has leveraged their influence to address.

As a result, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in JCP&L’s performance, and Altice has now agreed to run fiber to the home for all Hills residents. These aren’t headline grabbing issues, but they are the ones residents want solved.

Most recently, Mayor Jacobs, through our Planning Board, initiated a detailed study with the county to look at the AT&T property. AT&T is the single largest commercial ratepayer and comprises a significant portion of the Bedminster tax base.

They are now a Texas-based company, and their lease on the campus expires in 2023. Their departure would have a significant impact on the Bedminster taxpayer.

We have worked exhaustively with the landlord, AT&T, our planners and outside consultants to understand our options and identify preferred outcomes. Rather than letting fate determine our future, we are driving the project to ensure the most favorable results for our residents.

Be it the unexpected, including responses to floods or fire, or the mundane, like recycling containers or speed signs, the mayor and committee proactively tackle the problems and get results.

Traffic safety improvements on Routes 202/206? Check. Addressing the eyesores in Pluckemin Village? Check. Revamping the budget in times of crisis to keep taxes flat? Check.

On Nov. 2, I plan on voting for the team that consistently works the issues, as opposed to creating the headlines.

Please join me in re-electing Mayor Larry Jacobs and Committeewoman Renee Mareski to the Bedminster Township Committee.

Heatherwood Lane
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Bedminster Democrats told ‘do your homework’

TO THE EDITOR: to be blatantly honest, I’m kind of sick of politics.

As an individual involved in local government, that might come as a surprise. Unlike Washington D.C., we have something unique here in Bedminster, a functional government that puts the people first, not the party or politics.

We’re all volunteers, after all, just doing our part to better the community we know and love.

However, when I see uninformed attacks from the other side of the aisle, I wonder if it’s just a ploy to distract from a lack of involvement and no real platform on their end.

Most recently, the Mayor and Township Committee have been accused by the Bedminster Democrats of not properly administering the affordable housing program. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Democrats, having aligned themselves with a real estate agent interested in gaming the system to his advantage, have based their assertions on hearsay and secondhand information instead of facts. Like I teach my students, an argument without accuracy, validity and evidentiary support will leave one believing in logical fallacies. I can think of no better example than these affordable housing allegations.

You see, I am proud to say I got my start here through the Bedminster affordable housing program, as did my colleague, Committeewoman Renee Mareski. It afforded both of us a chance to be part of this incredible community, and was a first step into home ownership that we otherwise may have not been able to attain.

I am forever grateful for this opportunity, and I wish nothing more than to provide this opportunity to future generations to come, as is the purpose and intention of the affordable housing program, both here in Bedminster and throughout the state.

Like any institution, there are always opportunities for improvement. Last year, Mayor Jacobs and the committee took action to replace the current administrative agent with a professional services organization that has a long history and proven track record of managing affordable housing programs throughout the state.

Imagine my surprise when we were suddenly criticized for making a substantive improvement to an underwhelming and underperforming program.

But as the story unfolded, I came to realize that the objections were coming not from those who wanted to part of the affordable housing program, nor from those who have been part of the affordable housing program, but rather from those who were looking to take advantage of the program and didn’t get their way.

As a teacher, I have rules in my classroom. No cheating. Take turns. No cutting in line. These rules are there for a reason – so that every one of my students has a chance to participate fairly and equally.

The same should hold true for the affordable housing program. Apparently, that’s not what the opposition supports.

Most recently, the committee, in response to new state requirements mandating additional affordable housing beyond what previously and currently exists, zoned for newly required affordable rental units. We did it in a thoughtful way, integrating the units within the community, just as The Hills did 40 years ago.

We accomplished this without spending taxpayer money or depleting the existing funds that sustain our current affordable housing program. Those funds are there to help individual homeowners make improvements, provide down payment assistance and maintain the program going forward. The program is administered by our new professional affordable housing agent with input from our new Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

We’ve set up the program for the inclusion of the next generation of individuals who want a chance to join our community through the affordable housing path. It’s called equity. I, and the rest of the Township Committee, are proud to have preserved the program and ensure its viability for years to come.

Anyone who knows me can attest that I am a planner and a doer. I have never been, and will never be, content to sit on the sidelines.

I’m dismayed when individuals who aren’t even involved take cheap shots and cry foul play for personal or political gain. “Do your homework” not only applies in my classroom, but it’s a lesson for real life as well.

I know who’s done the work, put in the time and has their facts straight. On Nov. 2, I’ll confidently be voting for Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski for Bedminster Township Committee, and I encourage you to do the same.

Deer Haven Road
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: The writer, a Republican, is a member of the Bedminster Township Committee. This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Bedminster officials came through after Hills fire

TO THE EDITOR: Feb. 13, 2021, was the worst night of my life.

I was woken up around midnight to the sound of someone yelling, “Get out, get out, the building is on fire!”

The building 53 in Village Green was on fire. My first thought was that I was having a bad dream but, unfortunately, I wasn’t. Within the next few minutes, I found myself running out of my condo into the freezing cold night wearing pajamas, a coat and shoes.

I cried as I watched the firemen battle the flames rising from the building, wondering if everything I own would be lost.

The following days and weeks were full of so many emotions; scared, thankful that I, and everyone in the building, got out safely, and full of many questions as I played the night over and over in my mind.

Needless to say, it was all quite traumatizing. However, I am so very grateful to the many people who reached out to me in the days that followed to offer their prayers and assistance as needed. I was grateful to the Bedminster-Far Hills Fire Department and the other fire departments that responded to the scene and worked in the freezing temperature to get the fire under control.

However, the fire department was just one of many groups that were instrumental in helping the residents of building 53. Bedminster Township, in particular the Township Committee, immediately reached out to see what they could do to help.

I spoke with Mayor Larry Jacobs many times over the following weeks. He promised his help in any way that he could, whether it was the use of Town Hall as a meeting place, making sure that the township processed any paperwork or requested permits as quickly as possible, or providing lists of resources that we could call for help.

I am personally very grateful to Mayor Jacobs for all that he did for us to try and get the rebuilding process started as soon as possible.

Many residents from Bedminster, as well as surrounding towns, reached out wanting to know how they could donate to the fire victims. Renee Mareski worked with the township to set up a donation program, which was truly appreciated.

The fire is not the only time that Major Jacobs and Renee Mareski have gone above and beyond to be available to Bedminster residents and offer their help.

I think that Bedminster is very fortunate to have them as well as the rest of our very responsive Township Committee members.

On Nov. 2, I will be supporting Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski for re-election and I hope you will, too!

Larkspur Court
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

Affordable housing focus of Bedminster election

BEDMINSTER TWP. – The administration of the township’s affordable housing program has emerged as a key issue in a four-way contest for two seats on the Township Committee on Nov. 2.

Running for the three-year terms are Republican incumbents Larry Jacobs of Hillside Avenue, the current mayor, and Renee Mareski of Crestmont Road in The Hills.

They are challenged by Democrats Giuseppe Zaccagnini of Stone Run Road and Uttara Patla of Smoke Rise Lane, both residents of The Hills.

The four candidates were interviewed separately by this newspaper last week.

The Democrats, who are making their first bids for public office, say they want “a seat at the table’’ and offer fresh perspectives. The five-member committee is currently all Republican.

“I want to make sure there’s transparency and accountability,’’ said Patla, 52, a native of India who has lived in town for 22 years. “Change is good. We need a new set of eyes. I think there’s a few problems that need to be fixed.’’

A corporate communications professional for Prudential Financial, she has a master’s degree in education and communications from the University of Illinois.

Her running mate came to Peekskill, N.Y., from Italy as a teen-ager. A retired attorney and educator who has also worked and lived overseas, he has lived in Bedminster since 2016.

“I have valuable experience and career skills and a full international life,’’ Zaccagnini, 72, said. “I think those skills would be highly transferrable to the proper running of the store, the proper oversight of departments.’’

Jacobs and Mareski tout their experience as longtime volunteers and elected officials.

Jacobs, 57, an environmental attorney, was first elected in 2012 and is seeking his fifth term on the committee. He is in his third year as mayor, a post selected by his colleagues, and would like to remain at the helm.

He said the biggest challenge facing the township is “making sure our land use master plan is viable for the long-term.’’

A big issue will be ensuring the AT&T complex remains in use if the communications giant opts to leave town or downsize operations here. The township has already initiated studies in case that happens.

“AT&T is our biggest commercial ratable and also an employment center,’’ Jacobs said. “That building has been practically vacant since the beginning of Covid. We need to make sure we are situated for whatever comes to that site. If we can keep them there, that’s great, but we have to be a realist. I think we’re going to see a reduced presence by AT&T and want to be sure we have plans in place to put that property back in play as quick as possible.’’

Mareski, 61, is seeking her second term on the committee. She grew up in neighboring Bernards Township and is a 1977 graduate of Ridge High School. She’s lived in Bedminster for 24 years.

She previously chaired the township Environmental Commission. She works full-time as a purchasing agent for a wine distributor and also teaches adaptive horse-riding.

She had served as a representative to The Hills Village Master Association and is the only committee member currently living in the huge development. Mareski said her focus remains on the environment.

“I want to be able to continue to work on managing our resources, our parks, working with the Jacobus Vanderveer House, to make sure they stay in good working order,’’ she said.

She said the all-Republican committee represents all township residents.

“None of our ideas or issues fall into conservative or liberal categories,’’ she said. “They’re resident issues. What can we do, what can we do to take care of our Bedminster residents.’’

Jacobs and Mareski both volunteer regularly at the township’s Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

The challengers have not served on any municipal boards or committees in town, but said they’ve heard from other Democrats here who claim they were blocked from appointments by the GOP.

“We asked for the opportunity to submit a name and the mayor basically just brushed us off, saying they already had a short list,’’ Zaccagnini said.

“I love this town and think I can contribute a lot with a pair of fresh eyes and new ideas,’’ he added. “My experience spans a lot of time and many places of the world. My lack of direct experience with town governance is more than made up for by the skill sets which I consider transferable. Hopefully we make the headway and get a seat at the table.’’

He said that he “acquired professional experience from governance of large corporations’’ and doing extensive contract work as an attorney.

“There’s not a lot to complain about,’’ Patla said about the town, saying she considers it a “privilege’’ to live here. “But you do you need to have multiple perspectives. A lot of what we’re seeing that goes on, there’s not a lot of challenging. You have to have diverse voices around that table. That would be very important for the town.’’

Affordable Housing

The most divisive issue discussed involves affordable housing.

The Democratic challengers say the incumbents lacked proper oversight over the resale of affordable units, allowing some 30 rentals to lose their affordable status. This resulted in the need to rezone property to allow for replacement low-cost rentals to meet state requirements.

“As I understand it, Jacobs and Mareski, both board members of BHHS (Bedminster Hills Housing Corp.), basically dropped the ball,’’ said Zaccagnini. “All of this would not have been necessary had they provided the appropriate oversight as board members.’’

He said the “Main Street monstrosity’’ under construction on Lamington Road and another major housing project “in the pipeline’’ on Route 202-206 at Burnt Mills Road will cause a future “traffic congestion nightmare.’’

Zaccagnini said the township could have negotiated for an extension of affordability requirements with the owner of multiple rental units to keep them off the market, but failed to act.

“We would have avoided having a shortage on the rental side,’’ he said.

The incumbents defended their record, saying they have taken the necessary steps to replace the BHHC – which for years handled low-cost home sales here – with a more professional administrative agency that manages affordable housing resales for dozens of state municipalities.

Jacobs said the challengers are “ignorant’’ of the complicated legal issues involving affordable housing and are being misled by individuals with personal financial interests.

“I don’t believe our opponents are educated on the workings of the affordable housing program,’’ he said. “We’ve seen this before. They pick up an issue and are so desperate to find some fault with the Township Committee that they’re not willing to do the due diligence from their sources.

“We know who is behind this and their motivation is not pure,’’ he added, “people whose motivations are not in furtherance of the affordable housing program.’’

Jacobs said when he first joined the BHHC board as mayor, he learned that “the opportunities for self dealing and conflicts of interest were rampant.’’

As an example, he played back a recorded phone message left to the BHHC from a real estate broker who informed that he had a buyer for an affordable unit. He had worked out a deal, the broker said, and was seeking an application form.

Jacobs said that’s not how the affordable housing program is supposed to work.

“You’re supposed to have a waiting list,’’ he said. “It’s not cherry picking, who gets access to affordable housing.’’

He detailed several other actions involving the BHHC that he said were questionable, including approval of grants made directly to homeowner associations in The Hills.

He said he also learned the BHHC “was spending legal money to go to the foreclosure and using the affordable housing money to buy units at the auction, buying them, and if they needed repair they’d fix them back up.

“I said it didn’t make sense,’’ he said. “You’re spending money on lawyers and doing all this work and selling them at a loss.’’

Another major snafu led to the eventual termination of the BHHC, and ongoing litigation against its attorney.

Jacobs said that when 30-year affordability requirements were expiring on hundreds of Hills units, the BHHC attorney incorrectly informed the agency that the homeowners were not required to pay a “recapture fee’’ back to the affordable program when the homes were sold.

“It seemed inconsistent with the whole mission of affordable housing to me,’’ he said. “No money coming back to the affordable housing program.’’

He called it a “total windfall’’ for the owners of income-restricted homes to sell them and profit.

About a year later the BHHS learned that the owners were actually required to pay the fee. But in the meantime, numerous sales transactions occurred without the fee being collected.

Jacobs he said some members of the BHHC didn’t want to take action to get the money.

“Now we’ve got board members saying we can’t go after anyone, we have to let everyone go,’’ he said. “I’m sitting there as the mayor, I’m responsible, along with the Township Committee, for the affordable housing program to maintain the integrity and the vitality for the affordable housing program, and I’ve got a board that was ready to let it go.’’

He said recapture fee applied to about 600 homes overall.

“I have an obligation to make sure we have the funds available to be deployed appropriately,’’ he said. “Folks on the board who owned units or were otherwise involved in those transactions do nothing and now my blood is boiling.’’

He said he told the group he would recommend the Township Committee terminate BHHC as the administrative agent if no action was taken. “You are not going to jeopardize the affordable housing program because you don’t want to pay your 20 percent recapture,’’ he said.

The committee ultimately went out to bid and replaced with BHHC with CGP&H, LLC, which on its website claims to be “the only full service affordable housing implementation company in New Jersey.’’

Jacobs and Mareski say the change has worked out well.

“They are working out fantastic,’’ Mareski said. “It’s a complicated process, qualifying homeowners. They have a lot of experience and are handling it in a fair and equitable manner.’’

Jacobs said there is now a long waiting list for Bedminster affordable homes.

But Zaccagnini said the new management company has problems.

“Their presence is scarce,’’ he said. “You can not reach a human being on phone.’’

Jacobs denied that there was a realistic opportunity to negotiate with the owner of numerous affordable rentals to keep them off the market, saying the owner wanted millions of dollars that the township didn’t have.

He also defended the township’s rezoning of land in Pluckemin Village for a 160-unit housing development that will include 24 affordable rental units.

The project would be built on the south side of Burnt Mills Road between the Chase Bank and Pluckemin Schoolhouse Park.

Jacobs said the project was “put in the right spot’’ and would “improve the commercial and retail experience in Pluckemin.’’

He also said that if built, the developer “has the obligation to improve the traffic’’ at no expense to taxpayers.

The challengers raised no budgetary issues during the interviews.

Mareski noted that there was “no raise in our taxes this year.

“The Township Committee did an amazing job the last two years,’’ she said, noting that the focus was on issues involving Covid and employment. “This continues to be our focus. Our residents come first. We do try to make our pennies squeak.’’

Jacobs said he gets “satisfaction knowing that Bedminster remains a place where folks are happy and proud.’’

“They appreciate the efforts we have been undertaking.’’ he said.

But the challengers say another perspective is needed in the local government.

“Having me involved in the decision-making process would be highly beneficial in providing the necessary checks and balance and accountability,’’ Zaccagnini said.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Jacobs and Mareski ‘dedicated to Bedminster’

TO THE EDITOR: On Nov. 2, I look forward to voting to re-elect Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski to the Bedminster Township Committee.

I have been a resident of Bedminster Township for 20 years. Bedminster is widely recognized as an exceptional town, in large part due to the well-run local government – led by Mayor Jacobs and a hard-working Township Committee exemplified by his running mate Mareski – that grasps local issues, addresses them head on and produces positive results that benefit our community.

They are approachable and very responsive to our community when issues arise.

Larry and Renee’s dedication to serving Bedminster residents is evident in their responsible stewardship of Bedminster’s tax base.

Larry is adept at balancing the committee’s fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers with the delivery of outstanding community services. He knows that time spent on the dais is the smallest part of his job. He spends a great deal of time making certain that each municipal department and volunteer committee delivers value, runs efficiently and manages spending.

His leadership style is infectious. From the construction office to the Historic Preservation Commission, Larry encourages department heads, committee chairpersons, township employees and members of volunteer boards to focus on positive outcomes that benefit Bedminster residents.

He also leads by example, driving around town to survey storm damage, being on-site in response to emergency situations and volunteering to direct traffic at the Bedminster Farmers’ Market every Saturday.

Renee has parlayed her own experience living in affordable housing and serving for many years on the Crestmont HOA Board into her present Township Committee role as an advocate for all homeowners associations in Bedminster.

Most recently, she has been the conduit for the HOAs to connect directly with Altice to learn about their plans to improve services and influence next steps.

Renee is also the township liaison to several volunteer boards, e.g., the Environmental Committee where she previously served as chairperson. She is a strong supporter and promoter of programs that enhance our quality of life and engage residents.

Renee’s leadership has spawned favorites such as Moth Night and Bat Night, and she is always open to ideas for new initiatives for community outreach and involvement.

The role of Township Committee member goes far beyond attending the Monday evening meetings where official township business is conducted. Larry and Renee have achieved positive outcomes for Bedminster through their sound decision-making, delivery of community programs and services and advocacy for residents.

We all win when local government works for you. I encourage you to join me in voting to re-elect Larry Jacobs and Renee Mareski to the Bedminster Township Committee, so that all of us can continue to benefit from their leadership, dedication and results.

Wescott Road
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

LETTER: Bedminster Republicans helped town through crisis

TO THE EDITOR: Community. That is what Mayor Larry Jacobs, Committeewoman Renee Mareski and the Bedminster Township Committee have brought our municipality over the past several years.

They created a farmers’ market to promote our rural culture. The market has been an unprecedented success, not only for the farmers, but also as a gathering place where several hundred of us meet every week to shop and talk about our families and the week’s events.

Mayor Jacobs and Committeewoman Mareski consistently champion efforts to improve quality of life for our residents.

When COVID-19 was shutting down society, Jacobs, Mareski and the Township Committee kept our parks open, ensuring that our hike and bike paths continued to be a place for Bedminster residents to keep fit and enjoy the outdoors.

Working together as a team, they opened a food bank, so those of us with a steady income could help those who found themselves suddenly without.

They also moved quickly with special use permits, cutting red tape to allow our local businesses to survive the unprecedented economic impact of the governor’s lockdown.

Jacobs, Mareski and the Township Committee brought Bedminster together to mourn the loss of Bedminster Police Sgt. Alterek Patterson, an early casualty of the pandemic and a local hero.

Although COVID-19 hit New Jersey hard, Bedminster has enjoyed a relatively high vaccination rate, and one of the lowest infection and mortality rates.

While our mayor and Township Committee continued to keep taxes low, promoted our local economy and preserved our open space, they did much more, ensuring throughout the crisis that we kept our sense of community.

I will be voting to re-elect Mayor Larry Jacobs and Committeewoman Renee Mareski for the Bedminster Township Committee on Nov. 2, and I urge you to do as well.

Airport Road
Bedminster Township

Editor’s note: The writer is a former Mayor and member of the Bedminster Township Committee. This Letter to the Editor originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.