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, rural farming community until it was hit with massive suburban growth from Philadelphia in the later 1960s. In 1970, at a meeting about a proposal for taxpayer subsidized housing held at an all-black church in Mount Laurel, Mayor Bill Haines summed up the NIMBYist perspective by saying: "If you people can't afford to live in our town, then you'll just have to leave."[page needed]
Even though the 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 tax-payer subsidized housing areas, citing concerns of gang activity and an influx of inner-city criminals. Example 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..."[page needed]
Leading advocate in favor of taxpayer subsidized housing Ethel Lawrence, a black resident who lived her life in Mount Laurel, had her house repeatedly vandalized. Although the court ruled in favor of creating taxpayer subsidized housing, residents did manage to delay the process for decades.[page needed]
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 21.99 square miles (56.95 km2), including 21.72 square miles (56.26 km2) of land and 0.27 square miles (0.69 km2) of water (1.21%). It is drained by the Delaware River and Parkers Creek (a tributary of Rancocas Creek) and the South Branch Pennsauken Creek flow through its eastern and western portions respectively.
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, and Rancocas Woods.
Of the 17,538 households, 28.9% had children under the age of 18; 51.0% were married couples living together; 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present and 35.6% were non-families. Of all households, 30.4% 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.
22.3% of the population were 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, the population had 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.
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 two 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. The township is one of 42 municipalities (of the 565) statewide that use this form of government. In this form of government, the Township Manager oversees the daily functions of the Township. The governing body is comprised of the Township Council, which is 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 2022[update], members of the Mount Laurel Township Council are Mayor Kareem Pritchett (D, term on council ends December 31, 2022; term as mayor ends 2022), Deputy Mayor Stephen Steglik (D, term on council ends 2022; term as deputy mayor 2022), Karen Cohen (D, 2024), Fozia Janjua (D, 2024) and Nikitas Moustakas (D, 2024).
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. The grade configuration includes six schools serving pre-kindergarten / 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 from the six K–4 schools feed into a single upper elementary school (for grades 5 and 6) and middle school (grades 7 and 8). As of the 2018–19 school year, the district, comprised of eight schools, had an enrollment of 4,214 students and 350.0 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 12.0:1. Schools in the district (with 2018–19 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are
Countryside Elementary School (with 309 students; in grades Pre-K–4),
Fleetwood Elementary School (372; K–4),
Hillside Elementary School (348; Pre-K–4),
Larchmont Elementary School (395; K–4),
Parkway Elementary School (342; K–4),
Springville Elementary School (512; Pre-K–4),
Mount Laurel Hartford School (961; 5–6) and
Thomas E. Harrington Middle School (963; 7–8). Parkway Elementary School was one of four schools in New Jersey recognized by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, awarded by the United States Department of Education, for the 2005–2006 school year.
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.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Mount Laurel include:
Brian Aitken (born 1983), was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing handguns legally purchased in Colorado and transported in New Jersey from one residence to another; subsequently granted executive clemency from Governor Chris Christie
^Tribute to Ethel Robinson LawrenceArchived 2008-02-23 at the Wayback Machine "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."[page needed]
^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.
^Biography of Bob Menendez, United States Senate, January 26, 2015. "Menendez, who started his political career in Union City, moved in September from Paramus to one of Harrison's new apartment buildings near the town's PATH station.."
^About Your SchoolsArchived May 10, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, Mount Laurel Schools. Accessed June 8, 2020. "Our grade configuration includes six schools serving kindergarten through fourth-grade students. Students are assigned to our six kindergarten through fourth-grade schools based upon a geographic districting plan. 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. Mount Laurel is one of eight sending districts to the Lenape Regional High School District located in adjacent Medford for ninth through 12th-grade."
^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."
^Pensiero, Nicole. "Mr. Write", South Jersey Magazine, February 2014. Accessed June 8, 2020. "Chris DeStefano's career has had more twists and turns than, say, one of the chart-topping songs he's co-written for the likes of Carrie Underwood or Luke Bryan. The Grammy Award-winning Mount Laurel native—who now divides his time between Nashville and Los Angeles—is riding high on a wave of acclaim for his songwriting and production talents in the world of country music."
^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."
^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."
^Rys, Richard. "John Kruk"Archived 2008-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, Philadelphia, June 2007. Accessed March 25, 2011. "Another surprise, at least to us, is that he lives in Mount Laurel, keeping such a low profile that Exit Interview didn't even know he was still here."
^Barricklow, Denise. "Celebrate Black History Month with an unsung hero", Bucks County Courier Times, February 18, 2021. Accessed March 22, 2022. "Celebrate this Black History Month by learning about the heroic and inspiring struggle of Ethel Lawrence, who is often called the 'Rosa Parks of affordable housing.' Ethel's epic battle began in the late 1960s when she joined forces with a brilliant team of lawyers — Carl S. Bisgaier, Kenneth E. Meiser and Peter J. O’Connor — to resist exclusionary zoning in Mount Laurel, which had shut out the development of affordable homes for the poor. "
^Home pageArchived 2014-02-01 at the Wayback Machine, 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 21⁄2-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."