The Township Committee voted this week to abolish Hillsborough's Architectural Design Standard Sub-Committee. The move, first proposed earlier this month, is part of the town's "economic action plan" - a plan to remove unnecessary and onerous regulations on Hillsborough businesses.
The problem, as I see it, is that this committee may not be unnecessary, and may not be onerous.
At the meeting where the sub-committee was dissolved, former township committeeman and Planning Board member Paul Drake, and Planning Board member Marian Fenwick-Freeman, questioned whether eliminating the sub-committee would really save developers any money. Ms. Fenwick-Freeman also stated that the design standards drafted by the sub-committee were essential for improving the look of many recent projects, especially the new Walgreens on Route 206.
Now that the shovels are ready to hit the ground on the 206 bypass, the often talked about "town center" may actually become a reality. Larken has already presented a concept plan for its property on the northwest corner of 206 and Amwell Road, and other property owners are sure to follow.
While it is true, as Mayor Frank DelCore stated this week, that the architectural standards themselves are not being abolished, and that the Planning Board can oversee compliance, having a strong Architectural Design Standards Sub-Committee demonstrates that Hillsborough is serious about the appearance of development in our town.
Furthermore, it is not yet known what effect other elements of the economic action plan have had on business in Hillsborough. It may be that previous measures have already provided the boost needed to get things turned around.
Deputy Mayor Bob Wagner, the lone dissenting voice on this issue, asked whether the issue could not be studied further. I agree. If abolishing this committee is truly a good idea, it will still be a good idea in 2010. If it is a bad idea, Hillsborough residents may suffer the consequences for the next decade.