Lumberton Republicans Race Alone

Posted: May 30, 1993

LUMBERTON — The 1993 political calendar begins and ends in Lumberton next week, when Republicans go to the polls to choose two candidates for the Township Committee. No Democrats are running, so whoever emerges from the June 8 primary will end up with a seat on the committee.

Republican Mayor Kathleen K. Uhrman, a 48-year-old accountant, is up for re-election this year, and committee member Samuel J. Podietz is retiring after two terms in office. Uhrman and three newcomers are vying for the two spots on the Republican ballot.

Joining Uhrman on the Regular Republican slate is Brian T. Parker, a 33- year-old accountant, new to running for elective office but not to politics. Parker grew up working on the campaigns of his father, Barry, for the legislature, and has worked as a municipal auditor.

George M. Richardson, 43, also is not new to politics. He put in nine years on Willingboro's school board before moving to Lumberton in 1989, and he is stressing that experience in his campaign literature. Richardson runs a nonprofit insurance and investment firm in Lumberton and serves on the zoning board.

Rounding out the field is Dewitt Pennypacker, a zoning board member and teacher at Burlington County Vo-Tech. Pennypacker, 42, is running under the banner Republicans for Change; although he's not running with Richardson, the changes he's proposing mirror those Richardson offers. This is Pennypacker's second run for the committee.

The top priority, the four candidates agree, is working on a master plan to stem or better plan the township's rapid growth, and attracting more business to the community to relieve the tax burden on homeowners.

Lumberton's commercial strip has suffered some high-profile bankruptcies in the last few years, including the giant Kardon Auto Mall on Route 38. Meanwhile, construction of new homes continues at a rapid pace, with nearly 250 permits for new homes issued in the last several years and more huge developments looming.

The township opened a new middle school in 1991, which cost $7.7 million under a lease-purchase plan, but more classroom space might be needed soon. That makes attracting new businesses to ease the tax burden even more important, the candidates agreed.

Uhrman and Parker say they want to stem growth, both to preserve the rural nature of the town and to keep from overloading the infrastructure. For two years, Uhrman, several planning board members and a group of farmers have been working on a program to trade development rights to preserve farmland.

Pennypacker said he wanted to see recreational areas built and preserved as more and more houses go up. And Richardson said he did not want to stunt the township's growth, but would like to see the growth planned better.

The candidates also differ on how to lure new businesses.

Pennypacker and Richardson want to form a committee of business people to attract new enterprises, and Pennypacker suggested bringing in a professional.

"The commission would go to other townships and see what they have done to attract industry," Richardson said, citing places like Westampton and Pennsauken. One option he would consider is temporary tax breaks.

Uhrman disagreed. "To me, that's just one more group of people who have to agree on a meeting night," Uhrman said. She attributed a scarcity of new businesses to an unfriendly business climate in the state and the past recession.

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