Committee tables ordinance on road name change

Tabled over concerns of setting a bad precedent.

Joseph Metz/The Sun

The Harrison Township Committee voted at its April 15 meeting to table an ordinance that would change the name of Sentry Street in the Orchard Valley neighborhood to Ashcraft Lane in honor of a local family.

The vote to table came after concerns that the ordinance would set a bad precedent since, given that there is currently no criteria on naming streets. The issue also came up at the committee’s April 1 session.

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“If we approve this tonight, prepare for the flood gates to open with desires to name and rename different elements in the town,” said Committeeman Kevin French. “When this idea was brought to us at our previous meeting, it was framed out as because they (the Ashcrafts) were three generations of doctors, and if I simplify that, it’s because they chose a profession. A noble profession, but no more noble than a teacher or police officer or a farmer or an engineer or any other profession.

“I am just cautious and concerned about the way the history is brought to us,” he added, “potentially not in proper context, which could lead this committee to name or rename something without being informed.”

French and Committeewoman Michelle Powell – who was absent from the meeting – were tasked with coming up with criteria for name changes. It remains in the works.

“On April 29, 2014, we had a meeting,” said Mayor Louis Manzo. “Here’s the tape and here’s what was said: ‘If you don’t have a policy in place, that’s your policy. We said ‘only military veterans and people with historical significance.’ You can count the times this has happened (naming and renaming) … Anything historical based comes from our historical experts.”

Normally, according to Manzo, it is the land developers who name roads outside of Main Street and Mullica Hill farmland. A public hearing resulted in some residents voicing their opinions on the matter, including Paul Showers.

“There’s an abundance of historical reasoning to recognize that name (Ashcraft),” he argued. “At one point, the two doctors and the other brother owned almost all of the land on the west side of Main Street heading towards Tomlin Station Road.

“I am not at all diminishing the significance of this family in town,” French added. “I’m just trying to not set an unreasonable precedent tonight, so the flood gates don’t open with desires to name and rename any other things in town with the criteria we do have.”

After some debate – and without the input of Powell and township solicitor Brian Duffield, who was also absent from the meeting – the committee ultimately decided to table the measure and vote on it at a later date.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Monday, May, 6, at 7 p.m.,

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