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The Mount Laurel Decision is a judicial interpretation of the New Jersey State Constitution that requires municipalities to use their zoning powers in an affirmative manner to provide a realistic opportunity for the production of housing affordable to low and moderate income households. The decision was a result of a lawsuit brought against the town by the N.A.A.C.P. that was decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1975 and reaffirmed in a subsequent decision in 1983.
The history behind this, and the story leading to the Decision was highlighted in Our Town, a book by David L. Kirp.
Mount Laurel was a small, poor rural farming community until it was hit with massive suburban growth from Philadelphia in the later 1960s. Poor families, whose history had resided there for centuries, were suddenly priced out of buying property. In 1970, at a meeting about a proposal for affordable housing, held at an all black church in Mount Laurel, Mayor Bill Haines summed up the newcomers' perspective by saying: "If you people can't afford to live in our town, then you'll just have to leave."
Even though the poor black families in Mount Laurel were not from urban ghettos, and were not involved in gang activity, the new suburban influx thought otherwise, and significantly delayed the creation of affordable housing areas, citing concerns of gang activity and an influx of inner city criminals. Exampled comments from town meetings against forced construction of housing projects included "we need this like Custer needed more Indians"; "it's reverse discrimination"; "we lived in this in South Philly and Newark", and that the housing would be a "breeding ground for violent crime and drug abuse".
Resident advocates of the housing initiative were treated with abuse and threats. Leading advocate Ethel Lawrence, a poor black resident who lived her life in Mount Laurel, had her house repeatedly vandalized, and once her bedroom window was damaged by gunfire. Longtime white residents also tried to force the poor black residents out of town. Although the court ruled in favor of creating affordable housing, residents did manage to delay the process for decades.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 21.971 square miles (56.903 km2), including 21.692 square miles (56.181 km2) of land and 0.279 square miles (0.722 km2) of water (1.27%).
Other unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Birchfield,Bougher, Centerton, Colemantown, Coxs Corner, Fellowship, Hartford, Heulings Hill, Masonville, Petersburg, Pine Grove, Rancocas Woods and Texas.
There were 17,538 households out of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.0% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families. 30.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the township, the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 29.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.8 years. For every 100 females there were 87.4 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 83.5 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $84,632 (with a margin of error of +/- $5,366) and the median family income was $100,189 (+/- $4,065). Males had a median income of $75,870 (+/- $3,130) versus $54,215 (+/- $2,830) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $41,573 (+/- $1,416). About 3.0% of families and 3.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 3.8% of those age 65 or over.
There were 16,570 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.2% were non-families. 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the township the population was spread out with 23.1% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 32.7% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $63,750, and the median income for a family was $76,288. Males had a median income of $55,597 versus $37,198 for females. The per capita income for the township was $32,245. About 2.5% of families and 3.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9% of those under age 18 and 2.9% of those age 65 or over.
Parks and recreation
Laurel Acres Park
Laurel Acres Park is known for its Veterans Memorial, fishing lake, playground, and huge grassy hill used for concerts and sledding in the winter when it snows. Laurel Acres Park is right between Church Street at Union Mill Road. The Mount Laurel Baseball League and the Mount Laurel United Soccer Club play in the park's sports fields, and since 2008, the Mount Laurel Premiership. Mount Laurel also includes 2 dog parks.
Mount Laurel voted to change its form of government in 1970 from a Township Committee form to a Faulkner Act system using the Council-Manager (Plan E), enacted based on the recommendations of a Charter Study Commission as of January 1, 1972. In this form of government, the Township Manager oversees the daily functions of the Township. Township government consists of a Township Council made up of five members elected at-large in partisan elections to serve four-year terms on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats coming up for election in even-numbered years as part of the November general election. At an annual reorganization meeting held in January, the council selects one of its members to serve as mayor and another to serve as deputy mayor, each for a one-year term.
As of 2019[update], members of the Mount Laurel Township Council are Mayor Kurt D. Folcher (R, term on council ends December 31, 2020; term as mayor ends 2019), Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo (R, term on council ends 2020; term as deputy mayor ends 2019), Irwin Edelson (R, 2020), Kareem Pritchett (D, 2022) and Stephen Steglik (D, 2022).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 28,317 registered voters in Mount Laurel Township, of which 9,089 (32.1% vs. 33.3% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 6,880 (24.3% vs. 23.9%) were registered as Republicans and 12,328 (43.5% vs. 42.8%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 20 voters registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 67.6% (vs. 61.7% in Burlington County) were registered to vote, including 87.0% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.3% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 12,634 votes (55.5% vs. 58.1% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 9,797 votes (43.0% vs. 40.2%) and other candidates with 194 votes (0.9% vs. 1.0%), among the 22,762 ballots cast by the township's 29,792 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.4% (vs. 74.5% in Burlington County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 13,420 votes (57.2% vs. 58.4% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 9,657 votes (41.2% vs. 39.9%) and other candidates with 220 votes (0.9% vs. 1.0%), among the 23,443 ballots cast by the township's 28,847 registered voters, for a turnout of 81.3% (vs. 80.0% in Burlington County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 11,618 votes (52.3% vs. 52.9% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 10,382 votes (46.7% vs. 46.0%) and other candidates with 146 votes (0.7% vs. 0.8%), among the 22,231 ballots cast by the township's 27,385 registered voters, for a turnout of 81.2% (vs. 78.8% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 8,696 votes (65.1% vs. 61.4% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 4,341 votes (32.5% vs. 35.8%) and other candidates with 148 votes (1.1% vs. 1.2%), among the 13,354 ballots cast by the township's 29,635 registered voters, yielding a 45.1% turnout (vs. 44.5% in the county). In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 7,082 votes (50.4% vs. 47.7% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 6,149 votes (43.8% vs. 44.5%), Independent Chris Daggett with 617 votes (4.4% vs. 4.8%) and other candidates with 108 votes (0.8% vs. 1.2%), among the 14,047 ballots cast by the township's 29,086 registered voters, yielding a 48.3% turnout (vs. 44.9% in the county).
The Mount Laurel Schools serve public school students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. As of the 2014-15 school year, the district and its eight schools had an enrollment of 6,104 students and 335.2 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student-teacher ratio of 18.2:1. The grade configuration includes six schools serving kindergarten through fourth-grade students. Students are assigned on a geographic basis to one of the six K-4 schools; Countryside serves the township's northwest; Fleetwood, the northeast; Hillside covers the north central portion of the township; Larchmont, a piece of the eastern side; Parkway, covers the western portion; and Springville the southern tip. All students move into the upper elementary level together for fifth and sixth-grade, and remain together for entrance to the middle school for grades 7 and 8.
Interstate 295 passes through the township, with three exits (Exit 36: Berlin/Tacony Bridge/Route 73, Exit 40: Moorestown/Mount Holly/Route 38, Exit 43: Delran/Rancocas Woods). Other major thoroughfares through Mount Laurel are Route 38, Route 73 and County Route 537.
^Tribute to Ethel Robinson Lawrence "Ethel was the second of eight children born to Mary and Leslie Robinson. At the time, Mount Laurel, in Burlington County, was a rural enclave of farms. Most residents were white, but there was a small black population. Ethel Lawrence was among them. The family resided in Mount Laurel for over six generations." Accessed March 14, 2008.
^Kirp, David L. (2000), Almost Home: America's love-hate relationship with community, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, ISBN0-691-09517-5, p. 79: "Ethel Lawrence and Mary Robinson were sure that the township council would go along. After all, Mount Laurel was their town too and had been for generations."
^Laurel Acres Park is true gem "The park welcomes athletes of all ages and sports from novice walkers to organized teams. The Mount Laurel Baseball League and the Mount Laurel United Soccer Club play here." Accessed July 30, 2008.
^Schneider, Dan. "The Dan Schneider Interview 16: James Berardinelli", Cosmoetica.com, December 12, 2008. Accessed July 14, 2016. "I was born in New Brunswick, lived in Old Bridge for a year, then spent my childhood in Morristown and my teenage years in Cherry Hill. I went to college at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, then returned to New Jersey to live in Bridgewater, Hillsborough, and Mount Laurel, where I currently reside."
^Staff. "SJ Faces: Matt Duke", Courier-Post, January 8, 2006. Accessed June 19, 2011. "Musician Matt Duke is a 20-year-old native of Mount Laurel who is recording his first acoustic album for release in March."
^DiStefano, Joseph N. "'Forgotten' Philadelphia Stars in football-movie project", The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 22, 2010. Accessed November 30, 2017. "We were the last true champion in Philadelphia football. We call it "the Team that Time Forgot",' says ex-Stars tight ened Ken Dunek.... Dunek retired to Mount Laurel, whe he runs KRD Marketing LLC; the long-ago Memphis State U journalism student self-published a book of real-life stories last Spring."
^Neil HartmanArchived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine, Alternative Energy Development Group. Accessed December 10, 2014. "He resides in Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey with his wife and two children."
^Victor Hobson "Hometown: Mt. Laurel, NJ" "Drafted in 2nd Round of 2003 NFL Draft (New York Jets)"
^Sims, Gayle Ronan. "An entrepreneur's final act of generosity", The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 16, 2007. Accessed March 25, 2011. "A funeral service will be held Friday for Mr. Hovnanian, 80, who never stopped striving to make the world a better place for his family, the Armenian people and the underdog. The Iraqi-born Armenian American died after collapsing at his Mount Laurel residence that day."
^Home page, John A. Nagy. Accessed February 5, 2014. "John was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and he now resides in Mount Laurel, New Jersey."
^Kahn, Eve M. "Group Seeks to Buy a Suffragist's Home", The New York Times, July 13, 1989. Accessed October 18, 2019. "The Alice Paul Centennial Foundation plans to buy the house in Mount Laurel, but first the organization must raise $500,000 by Sept. 8.... The 2½-story, stucco-clad brick farmhouse was built in 1840 and once overlooked the Paul family's 173-acre (0.70 km2) Burlington County farm, east of Camden. Miss Paul was born in an upstairs bedroom in 1885 and lived in the house until she left for Swarthmore College in 1901."
^Picken, Barbara and Gail Greenberg (1972), Mount Laurel: a centennial history, p.36: "Dave Robinson at the Hula Bowl which honored him as a Penn State senior in the late 1950s. Robinson was an All-American at Penn State and became a defensive end [sic, linebacker] for the Green Bay Packers. He is the son of Mrs. Mary Robinson."
^Carison, Chuck (2004). Game of my life: 25 stories of Packers football. Sports Publishing ISBN1-58261-814-3, p.122: "Hometown: Mount Laurel, New Jersey"
^Wagman, Jake. "He is Mount Laurel's Angel", The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 21, 2002. Accessed March 25, 2011. "The parents of World Series pitcher Scott Schoeneweis want to set the record straight. Yes, he was born at a hospital in Long Branch, Monmouth County. And he did attend Lenape High School in Medford. But their little angel is a Mount Laurel native, through and through."
^"'Little Lovely Inge' Sørensen", Danish Teak Classics, March 21, 2011. Accessed November 30, 2017. "On March 9th, 2011, Denmark's sweetheart 'Little Lovely Inge' Sørensen died in her home in New Jersey at the age of 86.... A self-built wooden house set in the small forest of Mount Laurel, they lived a Danish lifestyle in America with homemade sausages and homemade bread."
^Benkin, Ed. "Ryan Thompson follows in his brother's footsteps to NBA", The Central Record, November 2, 2010. Accessed December 10, 2014. "Ryan Thompson went undrafted this past summer and went looking for a team to sign him as a free agent. The Mount Laurel native got his wish in September when he was signed by the Utah Jazz."