Mount Laurel Township is a township in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States, and is an edge city suburb of Philadelphia. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 41,864, reflecting an increase of 1,643 (+4.1%) from the 40,221 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 9,951 (+32.9%) from the 30,270 counted in the 1990 Census. It is the home of NFL Films.
Mount Laurel was incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 7, 1872, from portions of Evesham Township. The township was named for a hill covered with laurel trees.
There are several historical landmarks, including General Clinton's headquarters, Paulsdale, Evesham Friends Meeting House, Jacob's Chapel, Hattie Britt School and Farmer's Hall.
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.