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Delaware Township Is A Leader In Open Space Preservation

Delaware Township, NJ, takes land preservation seriously. The southern Hunterdon County locale is home to more than 4,000 people and has managed to preserve nearly half of its 23,616 acres for agricultural and open space use only. Historically a farming community, Delaware Township has stared down numerous development threats over the past few years, including the 2021 defeat of a proposed natural gas pipeline.

“Delaware Township has a real sense of community, you walk into the store, and everybody knows you,” Rosalind Westlake, chair of the Delaware Township open space committee and its Planning Board, told Consensus. “At the local pub, everybody knows you. Your neighbor — even a quarter mile down the road — is happy to lend you a cup of sugar. It’s very Norman Rockwell.”

It’s that sense of community that has helped the community face off with developers. Westlake has lived in the city for nearly two decades after relocating from nearby Princeton. She believes the city is “hugely attractive” because of its commitment to such preservation, which is either farmland or public land and a mix of public and private conservation. 

She says the locals love it, but it also attracts more and more new residents from larger cities looking for a change of pace. All are committed to a sustainable future for the town.

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“The community aspect is so important,” Westlake said. “We have sixth-generation farmers and New York City transplants getting along on an issue who can all sit at the same table and speak civilly.”

Those conversations are at the heart of what made Delaware Township victorious over PennEast Pipeline Company. PennEast tried to build a 116-mile natural-gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey that would have cut through the middle of the hamlet, taking both state and privately-owned land.

Township residents banded together with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on an extensive, no-holds-barred years-long campaign and eventually defeated the $1 billion project.

“What beat the pipeline was perseverance and collective strength against lies and falsehoods being made,” Westlake added. “People held on for eight and half years and believed. Attorneys, scientists, financial experts, environmentalists all banded together and pointed out the inaccuracies.”

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The pipeline is just one of many issues Delaware Township is creatively solving based on the strength of its conservation-minded residents.

“We are also hard at work on general planning principles related to housing,” she said. “Affordable housing is made more difficult by the inability of people to regularly build smaller apartments, so often it’s giant houses or even luxury apartments.”

“The ‘not in my backyard’ reaction people have based on misperceptions they have about affordable housing is something we are working hard to address,” Westlake continued.

As small towns continue to face development issues, Delaware Township leads by example as a community-driven locale dedicated to a healthy environment, local farms, and open green spaces for all.


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