April 12, 2024

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Updated: October 5, 2022 @ 9:11 am
David Chait
Courtney Peters-Manning
Jennifer DiDonato
Daniel J. Hanley, Jr.

The Hopewell Express sent questionnaires to all four candidates who are running for Hopewell Township Committee this fall: two Democrats, who are both incumbents, and two Republicans, their challengers. Their answers are below, edited only for typographical errors.
David Chait
David Chait, 37, is the founder and CEO of Travefy, a software company with three offices across the U.S., including one in Hopewell Valley. Chait and his wife, Amanda, have two children: Julia, 7, a second grader at Bear Tavern Elementary, and Sally, 4. He has lived in Hopewell Township for 3 years.
Chait, a Democrat, was appointed to the township committee in January, taking the place of Kristin McLaughlin, who was elected last year to the Mercer County Board of County Commissioners. He is the liaison to Public Works, Communications, Economic Development, the Affordable Housing Committee and the Lower Delaware and Scenic River Management Council.
Chait has also served on the planning board, been a classroom parent, and been a coach for youth sports.
Jennifer DiDonato
Jennifer DiDonato, 45, is a self-described “domestic CEO — in other words, I’m a stay-at-home Mom,” she says. The 10-year Hopewell Township resident is married to husband, Peter and has two children: a son, 13, who attends Timberlane Middle School, and a daughter, 17 and a senior at Hopewell Valley Central High School.
The first-time Republican candidate is PTO president at Bear Tavern Elementary School, co-chair of Bear Tavern Elementary’s International Night, and a member of the Bear Tavern Elementary Outdoor Learning Area planning committee. She is also a member of District Parent Council, Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance, Let Me Run Coach, the 2020 Parenting Conference Committee and the 44th Annual Pennington 5K Race and 1-mile fun Committee. She is co-chair of the Designer Handbag Bingo fundraiser for the CHS Class of 2023.
Daniel J. Hanley, Jr.
Daniel J. Hanley, Jr., 52, is a certified financial planner who has lived in Hopewell Township for 13 years. Hanley is married to wife Andrea (Consoli) Hanley, and have three children: Bryce and Austyn, who attend Hopewell Valley Central High School, and Hudson, a student at Bear Tavern Elementary.
Hanley, a Republican and first-time candidate for committee, has served as a board member and treasurer of the Hopewell Valley YMCA and has been treasurer of Hopewell Valley Lacrosse and the Hopewell Valley High School Class of 2025 PTO. He has also been a Hopewell Valley recreational lacrosse coach.
Courtney Peters-Manning
Courtney Peters-Manning, 45, is the mayor of Hopewell Township. Peters-Manning is also director of finance and general counsel at the Cambridge School. A Democrat, she is married to husband Tomas Manning, who is originally from Dublin, and has two sons, Seamus, 14, and Conor, 12. She has lived in Hopewell Township for 13 years.
Over the years, she has been involved in a number of community groups, including on the board of the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail and on the finance council of St. James Church. In addition to her duties as mayor, she is the township committee’s liaison to the Police Department and the Deer Management Committee, and has previously served as liaison to the Environmental Commission and the Senior Advisory Board. Between college and law school, she spent a year working with dolphins in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Tell us about the moment that you decided to run, or run again, for township committee.
Chait: I have always believed in service and effecting change in one’s community. This is why I served in the Obama Administration as senior policy adviser to the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in the midst of the Great Recession, and why I currently serve on the township committee. I want to continue this Committee’s great work in making Hopewell Township an even better place to live.
DiDonato: I was increasingly concerned with new developments rapidly being constructed near me. My husband reminded me, the grass is only greener where you water it. “Think Globally Act Locally,” has always been my mantra. I want to make sure these projects are run responsibly and with an emphasis on protecting our environment and its natural resources. I want to ensure the health and safety of our residents, including its human, animal, and insect inhabitants.
Hanley: During the height of Covid, I would walk outside and listen to my favorite podcasts. One of them resonated with me and inspired me to run for office. The podcast host proclaimed, “You must start local from the bottom up to change anything in this country”. Those words have put me where I am right now.
Peters-Manning: After the 2016 election, I decided to get involved in local politics. Wherever you stand on issues, I thought we needed to do better in terms of tone and civility. I have worked hard over the past three years to live that goal, and I am always willing to talk to anyone who has different opinions than my own. There is still work I want to do, especially with continuing to reduce residents’ property taxes.
Rate the job the committee has done in the past few years as it has dealt with the township’s affordable housing obligations.
DiDonato: I wish I had a better account of what the Township Committee has done with regard to their affordable housing commitments but unfortunately, I don’t think they have fulfilled ANY of their affordable housing obligations in the past few years.
I believe affordable housing is essential for the growth, development, and diversity of our community while simultaneously freeing up funds within families tight budgets to spend on healthcare, food, and transportation. Affordable housing can be a huge asset to our community as it promotes social connection and can increase neighboring property values by bringing in new business and employment opportunities.
Hanley: The Mount Laurel court decision requires that each community in NJ must provide a ‘fair share’ of affordable housing. Each township has handled this differently. The township had negotiated a lower unit amount to 653 vs. 1756 units. The issue we have now, the developer is in full swing in building these units along with marketable units at two different locations simultaneously.
While the township is to provide a “realistic opportunity” for building. If there is not sufficient market demand for this number of affordable units or we experience another Real Estate crash, the needed affordable units will not be built. At this point in the process, we should be doing one project at a time, especially now with mortgage rates back to twenty-year highs. Affordable housing should be the priority, since this is the stated reason for the developments.
Peters-Manning: The unanimous, bipartisan settlement agreement for Hopewell Township’s affordable housing litigation was finished before I was elected. My job and focus over the past three years has been to make this a welcoming community for our new neighbors, and to ensure that we are prepared for the coming changes. We have done this through financial agreements that will ensure that the township has the resources to provide the level of services that residents need and expect, as well as with careful coordination with the School District and the Fire/EMS providers to plan for the future.
Chait: A bipartisan township committee unanimously supported the current settlement in 2017, because the township’s affordable housing obligation is required by law. The settlement lowered the township’s obligation and protected residents from the skyrocketing taxes of building units directly or a higher obligation from a refusal to comply. All subsequent actions after the settlement have been the continuation of this settlement framework.
I believe this was the right thing to do. Otherwise, the township would be in up to $200 million of debt, endless litigation, or a 10-to-1 ratio for a builder’s remedy.
What do you believe is the best way forward for Hopewell in terms of future development? Lay out your vision for the next 15 years.
Hanley: There had been a master plan developed for the township back in the early 2000’s; this should be revisited regarding the guardrails they put in place for the future of Hopewell Township. Whether referring to where the developments should be, EPA standards that should be abided to, and complying with state regulations, care must be taken to craft a plan that does not place undue burden on our residents.
As a fiduciary, I am required to act in the best interests of my clients and will always do the same for our constituents. PILOT schemes should be approached with caution; our current committee has been seduced with one by a developer that will clearly increase future tax burdens for existing residents.
Peters-Manning: I have two goals over the next 15 years. First, we will attract pharmaceutical companies and other businesses to continue reducing the property tax rate. In 2022, the tax rate declined for the first time in 15 years, mostly due to an increase in commercial taxpayers, such as with the redevelopment of the former BMS site. We will continue to work hard to attract the right partners for Hopewell Township, who will work and pay taxes here while protecting our environment and open space.
Second, our new senior and community center will be built, in coordination with the YMCA and the school district, giving us all a place to gather as a community, and it will give our local swimmers a pool of our own.
Chait: Development and preservation should always go hand in hand. I recognize the value of preserving green space and champion the conservation of our beautiful landscape, which drew my family to Hopewell Township like so many others. To that end, I am proud of my record on the township committee supporting open space purchases, of which open space and other preserved land now makes up approximately 43% of the township, as well as my personal support for organizations like FoHVOS. And I’m honored that Courtney Peters-Manning and I were recently endorsed by the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters for this work.
Additionally in my role as economic development liaison, I am committed to continuing to build our innovation economy to keep lowering taxes.
DiDonato: My vision for the future of Hopewell Township for the next 15 years would be comprised of acquiring input from other fellow residents. Talking with students, parents, seniors, emergency service staff, healthcare workers, local business owners and anyone who has a stake in our community to see what their ultimate vision of Hopewell might be. I feel it’s important to speak with all residents about this topic and get a real sense for what might fit best for all for our future. This is “OUR” Hopewell. I believe the best ideas are discovered collectively through collaboration. Our community members are the heart of what makes a healthy and thriving community.
What are two vital issues facing Hopewell Township today, and what will you do as a member of the township committee to address them?
Peters-Manning: Property taxes are a critical issue, and this year we accomplished the first tax rate decrease in 15 years by working hard to attract more commercial taxpayers to the township. If re-elected, I will continue to attract the right businesses to protect both the financial health of the community as well as our shared environment.
Preserving our open space and environmental resources is also vital. Over the past three years, 978 acres of open space and 240 acres of farmland have been preserved in Hopewell Township. I am a lifelong environmentalist, and David Chait and I are honored to have been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters this year. I will continue this work if reelected.
Chait: The single most important issue facing the township is finances. None of us wants to pay more than we have to for taxes. I’ve worked tirelessly to address tax and affordability issues and through a combination of reducing municipal debt, attracting new commercial ratables, and opening new sources of revenue. The success of these efforts is clear with this year’s tax rate decrease, which is the first decrease in 15 years.
But day-to-day issues are also important. We work for everyone in the township, and I am committed to always listening to and addressing the needs of residents. For example, my recent leadership on the no-knock ordinance and truck safety issues came directly from the concerns of residents.
DiDonato: An important issue to me in the future would be the safety and well-being of our youth as they navigate through mental health struggles and the newly accessible cannabis retail locations within our Township. I would like to ensure our approach is logical and takes into consideration its target consumers. I think we could work closely with these business on how they will give back and support the safety of our youth once they are rooted within our community.
Another vital issue facing Hopewell Township would be increasing transparency with our Township residents, while creating a more authentic dialogue. We need to present an easier method of not only accessing live committee meetings but also interacting with and or reviewing both past meetings and minutes.
Hanley: Jennifer and I have been spending time in several neighborhoods and can confirm the two vital issues facing the township are: development and taxes. Developmental projects must be done methodically and openly, so the public understand the ‘Why.’ To address this issue, I would propose town hall meetings in the neighborhoods, encouraging many to attend and contribute, but not limiting them to just three minutes, and open up discussion to any township concerns.
The tax levy is always a top issue where residents need us to represent them. The two key ways of lowering taxes are commercial economic encouragement and reduced spending. The current administration has been wrong on these two issues, and correcting this will be our major priorities.
Rate the committee in terms of openness, transparency, access and communication. Does the committee do a good job? What could it do better?
Chait: As a member of the township committee, I champion transparency and communication. In addition to open meetings, the township now publishes a quarterly newsletter, and regularly updates all social media. I am personally committed to engaging with residents and am ready to take action, such as the recent no-knock ordinance and road safety enforcement among other areas. If residents have any questions or concerns, I can be reached at dchait@hopewelltwp.org.
DiDonato: I believe the current committee does their best with regard to openness, transparency, access and communication given the constraints that the last 2 years have presented. However, there is always room for improvement. I will evaluate these process pressure points and find ways to streamline them while making them more accessible.
Hanley: The committee has a good presence on the township website and I have seen them at public events. It’s been a tough couple of years for access and openness, however with Covid waning, I’d expect more lines of communication to open. They should hold office hours to meet with residents, and reach out to local businesses, restaurants & bars, and local large businesses to get a pulse of what is going on in the township.
Peters-Manning: I am extremely open and available to residents. I can be reached at cpeters-manning@hopewelltwp.org or (609) 577-3312. Please contact me any time with questions, concerns, or problems.
Further, to increase public participation, Committee meetings are now hybrid, so residents can attend either in-person, or electronically from their own homes. Updates from the township are available via our newsletter, social media, email alerts, or articles in a variety of news outlets.
How would you rate Hopewell as a place to live for all people, regardless of race, background and income level?
DiDonato: My Great grandfather, an Italian immigrant, and great grandmother, a Jewish-German immigrant, migrated to Hopewell nearly a century ago seeking a more inclusive place to live. They were welcomed holey by the community on many levels. My family experienced the same warm welcome from the community when we moved back 10 years ago.
Based off of our combined experiences I would rate Hopewell very high with regard to being a hospitable place to live for all people, regardless of race, background, and income level. We can improve upon small business expansion. Small business acceptance would allow greater progress and would provide more opportunities to welcome more diversity. This would increase the knowledge of cultural sensitivity, fairness, and understanding which will create a better community throughout.
Hanley: I’ve called Hopewell my home for over a decade, and couldn’t be happier with a community that is inclusive to everyone. As a son of an immigrant, I know what my mother had endured when she first came to the country in the 1950’s from Germany. Hopewell is creating space for someone like my mom when she immigrated who can now live out their dreams. This is what makes Hopewell a wonderful community to live in. “Ich bin ein Hopewellian!”
Peters-Manning: As mayor, it is my job to do everything in my power to make Hopewell Township a welcoming community for everyone. One example of how I have tried to accomplish this is in the naming of the streets in two new neighborhoods coming to the township. When approached about street names, I immediately thought to ask members of the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum Board to name the streets after prominent Black residents of the valley over history.
The contributions of our Black residents have been wide-ranging and historically significant, yet we do not see their mark on the roads and streets around town. With the coming of two new neighborhoods, we have the rare opportunity to correct this.
Chait: Amanda and I chose to raise our family here and to build a business here because Hopewell is an extraordinary place to live. The township has a rich history and is a tapestry of neighborhoods, farmland, and businesses each with their own important and unique needs. One thing that unites much of our community is the desire to preserve our open space and to protect our environment — of which I’m a proud champion.
With amazing schools, restaurants, parks, and more, this is the ideal community to live in, which is why keeping Hopewell affordable for all people has been my priority on the Township Committee. In furthering that mission, I’m proud that 2022 is the first tax rate decrease in over 15 years.
What personal and professional experiences do you have that make you qualified to serve as a member of the Hopewell Township Committee?
Hanley: I’ve spent three decades in finance, the last 10 years working with individuals on anything ranging from retirement planning, tax planning, budgeting, and estate planning. As a fiduciary, I hold my clients’ best interests before mine and would do the same for my fellow residents. As I have recently begun working locally to our community, I have been free to serve on several local boards, and look forward to other ways to give back to my community.
Peters-Manning: My professional background as a lawyer and a director of finance has given me the tools to be an effective member of the Township Committee. During my time on the committee, we have decreased the property tax rate, hired a new chief of police who is community-minded, responsive, and involved, immediately responded to residents’ concerns about illegal truck traffic and unwanted solicitation, developed a “best of the best” ordinance to control cannabis businesses in the township, vastly increased communication with residents, and seen the preservation of 978 acres of open space and 240 acres of farmland.
Chait: As an entrepreneur and business owner, I understand the issues small businesses face, have deep budgeting and financial experience, and have a strong appreciation for the need to stretch every dollar. As a former McKinsey consultant, I know how to solve complex problems. And as a former Obama Administration Official at the U.S. Small Business Administration, I understand economic development. Most importantly, as a father of school age children and a community volunteer, I have a profound appreciation for the unique aspects that make Hopewell Township an unparalleled place to live.
DiDonato: I have a background in environmental science and horticulture. I have a passion for nature and our environment. I am a committed public servant and have served our community for the past 10 years. I am a lifelong learner. I love to take on new challenges and see where I can make improvements. I enjoy connecting with others and look forward to better understanding how I can serve the Hopewell Township community to the best of my ability.
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