Hardyston Township, New Jersey
Small Town Charm Meets Sustainable Ambitions
Within striking distance of the metropolitan buzz, Hardyston Township, New Jersey keeps its small-town allure while forging ahead with ‘big city’ economic developments
Nestled amidst the picturesque landscapes of New Jersey, the vibrant township of Hardyston paints a delightful picture of serene lakes, lush golf courses, and open fields. Known for its green spaces and diversity of housing, it is a quintessential depiction of the harmonious blend of urban comfort and rustic charm.
Brian Kaminski, the township’s Mayor, eloquently illustrated the allure of Hardyston. “We are blessed with ample open land, a rich diversity of housing options, and recreational facilities that are deeply loved by our community. The area between our municipal building and the middle school fondly referred to as ‘the fields’, is probably the most cherished spot for the younger generation.” The pride in Mayor Kaminski’s voice is unmistakable as he describes the unique characteristics that set his township apart.
Hardyston boasts an array of housing choices. “From waterfront properties gracing several lakes, to condominiums, townhomes, single-family homes, and golf course residences – there’s a perfect abode for everyone,” he explains.
One cannot talk about Hardyston without acknowledging the practical advantages it offers. Township Manager, Carrine Piccolo-Kaufer, adds her perspective on the topic of commuting. “Many of our residents work in Manhattan or the more urbanized counties of Bergen and Morris. On an average day, they are looking at commute times of about an hour and a half to Manhattan and roughly an hour to Bergen and Morris counties,” she explains.
A New Paradigm: Embracing Remote Work and Community Development
The rise of the remote work model has set new trends in Hardyston. Mayor Kaminski shares, “Productivity has seen an upswing with this model as people save significant commuting time. That saved time gets invested into work from their home desks,” he says, hinting at the advent of a new era that Hardyston is readily embracing.
A surge in residential property sales and development alludes to the attraction of the township’s more rural character. Piccolo-Kaufer sheds light on this development. “With people no longer having to make the daily commute, they appreciate the open spaces and rural feel of Hardyston. We’ve seen an increase in residential property development since Covid, making Hardyston an attractive place to be,” she notes.
Hardyston’s appeal extends beyond its natural charm and burgeoning remote work culture. It is also an economically prudent choice for new and existing residents. “For two years in a row now, we’ve maintained a zero dollar-tax increase for our taxpayers, which is a significant positive,” announces Mayor Kaminski.
Community Investment: Evidence of Forward-Thinking Leadership
A distinct feature of Hardyston is its modern municipal complex, rec center, and middle school – all approximately 17 years old, but well-maintained and modern in appearance. The middle school, completed in 2006, is still a prominent feature of the township. “There was a significant capital investment made at the same time that three separate residential developments were being built pre-recession,” Piccolo-Kaufer notes.
Through a capital improvement plan adopted in 2018, the township set a path for improving and repairing nearly all municipally owned roads over seven years, from 2018 to 2024. This strategic move happened while still maintaining the low tax rate, showing the township’s commitment to investing in its infrastructure.
Piccolo-Kaufer elaborates on how Hardyston sustains these developments without increasing the tax burden on its residents. “We actively seek-out means to support the municipal budget outside of property tax revenues. That includes shared service agreements where we partner with surrounding communities to offset our operational costs.”
Strengthening Infrastructure and Broadening Connectivity
Infrastructure development remains an active area of focus for Hardyston. According to Township Manager Piccolo-Kaufer, the township has embarked on various projects to enhance its emergency preparedness. “We have installed redundancy measures such as emergency generators at key facilities. This ensures that we can provide warming or cooling stations during emergencies such as hurricanes,” she explained. The township’s commitment to robust infrastructure is further underscored by its long-term capital plan for roads and other municipal facilities.
Despite being a rural area, Hardyston understands the importance of high-speed connectivity. Piccolo-Kaufer admits, “Broadband connectivity is an issue in these parts. While the township hasn’t made direct investments, we are supportive of companies expanding broadband services.”
Cultivating Commercial Growth: A Conscious, Environment-friendly Approach
When it comes to commercial expansion, Carl Miller, councilman and chairman of the
Economic Development Commission, details Hardyston’s careful approach. “We’re looking for clean industries that are compatible with the town and share our values. We avoid businesses that pose pollution risks,” he shared. The town council is also investing in underutilized township-owned properties, exploring potential opportunities like siting solar energy facilities.
However, attracting certain types of businesses, particularly chain restaurants, poses a challenge due to Sussex County’s lower population density and restrictive liquor license regulations. Miller acknowledged, “We’re at a disadvantage. These businesses conduct demographic studies and find we lack the critical mass to support their models. The liquor license regulations based on our population, around 8000, would only permit two licenses. Although we have more than two licenses, grandfathered in through the years, it impedes chains that wouldn’t consider setting up shop without one.”
Despite these challenges, Hardyston’s approach toward economic expansion remains thoughtful, balanced, and conscious of the unique characteristics of the community it serves.
Fostering Small Businesses: The Backbone of Hardyston’s Economy
In Hardyston, small businesses and entrepreneurs find a welcoming and supportive environment. As Miller highlights, “Small businesses that can operate without the need for liquor licenses are what we thrive on.” The township actively encourages ‘mom and pop’ enterprises, a testament to its business-friendly ethos.
Miller recounts the strategic efforts made since the late ’80s to foster this environment. “We’ve engaged all facets of the town — from the council and the land use board to the building, fire, and police departments — to support business growth. Our aim is not to obstruct but to facilitate their survival and success.” A tangible manifestation of this commitment is the revision of a restrictive sign ordinance that hampered advertising for new businesses.
As part of its pro-business approach, the Economic Development Commission has initiated business appreciation breakfasts. “These events are a platform for local businesses to connect with town representatives. We show our gratitude for their presence, acknowledging that they have a choice of where to operate. We’re thankful they chose Hardyston, and we want them to stay,” Miller articulates.
Miller underscores that aesthetic appeal was a crucial consideration, too. He proudly references a local business, Highlands Self-Storage, whose well-maintained exterior serves as an excellent example of what they envisioned. “We want to create an industrial park that not only the businesses can be proud of but also one we and our residents are proud of. We convey this desire to potential occupants as well,” Miller emphasizes, reinforcing Hardyston’s commitment to a harmonious blend of economic growth and community pride.
Hardyston: A Township Striving for Beautification and Community Connection
Hardyston may not possess a traditional town center that promotes walkability, but it boasts a strong desire to enhance its aesthetic appeal. As Piccolo-Kaufer reveals, “We are intersected by two main arterials, Route 23 and Route 94, which have commercial strips we want to revitalize. There’s an aspiration to attract small businesses and improve the overall aesthetic quality of these commercial corridors.”
The state’s ongoing project to realign the main intersection entering Hardyston represents a significant opportunity. “Post completion, we aim to encourage businesses to undertake beautification projects and enhance their curb appeal. We envision Hardyston as a welcoming place that radiates vibrancy,” Piccolo-Kaufer says, reflecting the township’s drive to create an appealing sense of place.
Hardyston has a robust roster of events promoting community spirit, the centerpiece of which is Hardyston Day. Mayor Kaminski elaborates, “Our Hardyston Day, held in early September, spans two days. We kick off with a band performance and fireworks on Friday night. The following Saturday is replete with vendors, entertainers, and activities, drawing a crowd of around a thousand people.”
The township’s commitment to community engagement extends far beyond this annual highlight. “We organize holiday celebrations focusing on the younger residents, from tree lightings and egg hunts to pumpkin painting and hayrides,” shares Piccolo-Kaufer. Additionally, Hardyston offers a ‘Safety Town’ program for incoming kindergarteners, teaching essential safety concepts at a minimal cost.
On the township’s unique position — situated close to a major metropolis yet maintaining a small-town ambiance — Mayor Kaminski comments, “While we are just an hour or so away from New York City, its influence doesn’t permeate Hardyston.” Instead, the town relishes its status as a recreational destination.
Hardyston is home to an array of recreational opportunities from hiking through the Sparta and Hamburg Mountain Wildlife Management Areas, to ice skating at Skylands Ice World or playing golf at state of art golf courses at Ballyowen and Crystal Springs.
Crystal Springs Resort nestled against the mountain backdrop and within an hour of New York City is a world class family-friendly resort with a hotel, golf course, spa, dining, wine cellar, and recreational activities.
Collaboration and Future Initiatives: An Agenda for Sustainable Growth and Community Safety
Hardyston Township cherishes its relationships with key collaborators, all contributing to the township’s prosperity. “Our partnerships with Sussex County Economic Development Partnership, Crystal Springs, the Sussex County YMCA, and Skylands Ice World play a pivotal role in promoting the township and creating a sense of place,” acknowledges Piccolo-Kaufer. These organizations not only attract visitors but also contribute to the town’s unique identity and thriving community life.
The township also has a clear vision for its future, with ambitious goals for development and community well-being. Mayor Kaminski reflects, “Our focus for the coming 18 months to two years is to utilize idle properties for the benefit of our residents. We aim to transform a brownfield property into a solar farm, generating funds to maintain or ideally reduce property taxes.” This pragmatic approach to land use underscores Hardyston’s commitment to sustainability and financial resilience.
The mayor is keen on diversifying Hardyston’s commercial landscape too. “If we can attract more commercial businesses, regardless of their size, we can provide some relief to our residential property taxpayers,” he notes, emphasizing the need for a balanced local economy that serves all residents.
While Hardyston keeps an eye on the future, the township also takes pride in its present assets. Mayor Kaminski points out, “We are one of the few towns in the area to have our own police department. It’s an advantage of living in Hardyston — our residents can call upon a police force that will respond in minutes.”
As Hardyston continues to build upon its strong foundations, the township’s spirit of collaboration, visionary leadership, and commitment to resident services paint an optimistic picture for the future. Balancing urban convenience with rural charm, the township is an ode to thoughtful, sustainable growth.
AT A GLANCE
Hardyston Township, NJ
What: A town where a community-focused ethos and forward-thinking developments coalesce to shape a vibrant future.