Who Makes the Decisions in Town? 

October 1, 2015

Do you understand how development projects get approved in your neighborhood or who makes certain decisions?  Local government is responsible for many of the things that affect our day-to-day life.  That’s why it’s so important that residents get informed about how our local government works.

The Township Committee is not the only governing body in the Township.  Decisions that affect Readington residents are made by members of several different Boards and Committees.  All of the members on Township Boards, Committees or Commissions are volunteers, although Township Committee members are paid a modest salary of $8,500 per year, with the Mayor receiving an additional $1000. 

An Overview of Township Boards, Committees and Commissions

The general functions of certain Boards and Committees are summarized below, but first let’s consider what makes Readington special.

At 48 square miles, Readington Township is one of the largest townships in the State, and it represents 10% of Hunterdon County.  In large measure, Readington still retains the beautiful historic countryside that Hunterdon County has always been known for, with plenty of farms and open farmland, interspersed with wooded areas, pleasant streams, historic villages and quiet suburban subdivisions.

 Readington's wonderful rural character over the last quarter century has not happened by accident.  Readington was successful in preserving its rural character while other townships in Central New Jersey have succumbed to suburban sprawl because township citizens have consistently directed elected officials of the Township Committee that this is the way Readington should be.  In response, Readington's Master Plan was carefully developed and updated over the years to assure that both the Township's rural character and its natural resources have been carefully protected.  The only way to continue to safeguard Readington from imposing sprawl is to maintain strong leaders on the Township Committee to ensure local decisions are made in the best interest of all Readington citizens.  Through local participation and elections, Township residents ultimately decide the priorities for Readington.  The members of all other Boards, Committees and Commissions are appointed by the elected Township Committee.

 Township Committee

The Township Committee is comprised of five members charged with attending to the business of the Township. Each member is elected for a three year term. Committee members’ terms are staggered so that each year, one or two members are up for election.  At the beginning of each calendar year, the Committee elects one member to serve as Mayor for a one year term.  At the same meeting, appointments are made to the various volunteer Boards, Committees and Commissions that help to do the work of the Township.  

The Township Committee develops an annual spending budget each year to cover the expense of providing municipal services.  A sampling of municipal services that  our township provides include a police force of 23 municipal officers, a Detective Bureau, a Municipal Court, the Department of Public Works to maintain over 150 miles of roadways, code enforcement, finance, tax collection, tax assessment, social services, recreation, libraries and trash and recycling pick up.  Township emergency services for Fire and Rescue are handled by local volunteer companies, but our municipal government lends financial support and helps buy equipment necessary to keep our residents safe.  

Readington municipal taxes account for less than 20% of all property taxes collected from each homeowner.  The Township collects property taxes, then disperses approximately 65% of that to local schools and approximately 15% to County services.

The Committee meets at 7:30 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month at the Township's municipal building.

Board of Adjustment

The Board of Adjustment is also sometimes referred to as the “Zoning Board” because this board hears from landowners who seek relief from zoning ordinances.  Zoning ordinances are the “rules” governing how development or other land uses occurring on properties within the Township are designed and/or completed.  Ordinances are put in place to protect the safety or property of the community as a whole.  For example, ordinances exist for things like maximum building height, minimization of storm run-off, proper septic system function, noise, littering, and dog licensing.

When a landowner wants to do something on a property that is not consistent with a Township ordinance, the landowner must apply for a variance for that ordinance.  The Board of Adjustment reviews applications for variances, and decides whether the variance is permissible on a case-by-case basis.  Board of Adjustment meetings are where uncharacteristic or large-scale development projects are presented to the public because they require a variance, and where people can voice their concerns or ask questions about projects that don’t meet the criteria of Township ordinances.  There is a direct link to a database of General & Land Use Ordinances on the left sidebar of the Readington Township website.  Board of Adjustment meetings are at 7:30 PM on the third Thursday of each month at the Township’s municipal building.

Planning Board

When a landowner wants to pursue a new development project (as opposed to a modification or improvement to existing infrastructure), an application must be presented to the Planning Board.  This Board reviews the proposed development projects in the context of the Land Use Master Plan.  This plan includes the Township Zoning Map, and is the overall vision for future areas of development, preservation or redevelopment.

The Planning Board develops and periodically updates the Land Use Master Plan, and also reviews amendments or revisions to the Township Land Development Ordinance to ensure that the ordinance remains consistent with the Master Plan of the Township.  The Planning Boards meets at 7:30 PM on the second and fourth Monday of each month at the Township’s municipal building.

Agricultural Land Advisory Committee

This Committee is charged with advising on matters pertaining to Farmland Preservation, and also to all matters dealing with agriculture in general. The Committee has helped to develop and annually update the Township's Farmland Preservation Plan.  Its members serve as liaison to the Hunterdon County Agricultural Development Board and also serve to advise and assist farm owners who apply for the County and State and Federal Farmland Preservation Program.  The Agricultural Land Advisory Committee meetings are scheduled as needed.

Open Space Advisory Board

This Board serves to advise the Township Committee on matters pertaining to preserved Open Space in our township. Occasionally, the Board recommends Open Space parcels to be preserved utilizing money set aside for Readington within Hunterdon County's Open Space Preservation Trust and the State Green Acres Program. It also recommends strategies for maintaining the Township's publicly owned open spaces. Its members assist with trail building and clearing, and lead monthly "Open Space Walks" to encourage the Township's citizens gain access to the Township's public lands.  The Open Space Advisory Board meets on the 1st Wednesday of every month at 7:00 PM.

 Historic Preservation Commission

The role of this Commission is to maintain important historic structures and elements in the Township, according to the Historic Preservation Ordinance.  In an extensive study by the Hunterdon County Planning Board, nine areas of historic significance were identified in Readington Township, as well as over 100 other individual structures such as farms, dwellings, school houses and bridges.  Any landowner wishing to modify designated historic features in the Township must first meet with the Historic Preservation Commission.  Meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 PM.

Readington Township Board of Education

Board of Education members are elected directly by the public, and thus are independent of the Township government.  The function of the Board of Education is to approve the school budgets and expenditures, develop and approve school policies, ensure that the schools are run well, negotiate labor contracts, and hire and evaluate the superintendent.  The superintendent’s job is to run the schools, including teachers, administrators, support staff, transportation, maintenance and ground crews.  In addition, the Board of Education determines the policies for the district whereas the superintendent executes those policies.  This Board does not deal directly with parents of students until after the issue has been presented first to the local school teacher, then the principal and then the superintendent.  The Readington Township Board of Education is responsible for Three Bridges School, Whitehouse School, Holland Brook School and Readington Middle School.  The Board of Education meetings are held at 7:30 PM at Holland Brook School.  The meeting schedule can be found here

Hunterdon Central Regional High School Board of Education

Readington High School students attend Hunterdon Central Regional High School, which accepts students from Delaware, East Amwell, Flemington, Raritan and Readington.  Readington residents vote annually for three representatives on the nine member Hunterdon Central Board of Education.  Meeting times and other information about the HCRHS Board of Education can be found here.