LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP, NJ – The Sussex County Economic Development Partnership (SCEDP) held a dinner at the Lafayette House on Thursday, November 29, to honor the mayors of the 24 municipalities in the county.
Tammy Horsfeld, President of the SCEDP, welcomed the group, on behalf of the business community, many of whom were present.
“I’d like to thank you for all you’ve done to try to make it a little bit easier for all of us who live here in Sussex County, and to improve the quality of life that we have, even in tough times,” said Horsfeld. “We appreciate that more than you know.”
Horsfeld then introduced the evening’s program by explaining, “I thought this would be an appropriate setting to introduce a brand new tool that’s coming out, that’s going to assist our towns, our engineers, our planners in moving forward in planning their transportation needs and taking a look at the big picture.”
The guest speaker was Zenobia Fields, the Department Director of Planning of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA), headquartered in Newark.
Fields is responsible for VizTool, a multi-faceted computer program, which will allow counties and municipalities to “sketch alternative futures” using computer aided design. Using real data, much of which can be obtained from her office, municipalities can input population, land use, commuting habits of residents and many other aspects of community, to plan where people will live, shop, work, and play in that community, in the future. The program will allow planners, legislators and citizens alike to visualize the consequences of hypothetical decisions, in order to proactively create the type of healthy, sustainable community that they want to have. It allows communities to evaluate strategies through technical analysis. It coordinates the federal, state and local agencies’ regulations that affect the growth or revitalization of a municipality, on a local or regional scale.
Fields explained that when planning, it is important to look at the future through many different lenses, including economic, demographic, environmental, land use, and transportation. She encouraged the mayors to “use this tool to explain your trade-off options. Ask people what they value, get feedback. This will allow you to analyze your transportation investment options.”
According to their website, the NJTPA is 100 percent federally funded. They are the authorized Metropolitan Planning Organization for 6.6 million people in the 13-county northern New Jersey region. Each year, the NJTPA oversees more than $2 billion in transportation improvement projects and provides a forum for interagency cooperation and public input into funding decisions. It also sponsors and conducts studies, assists county planning agencies and monitors compliance with national air quality goals.
Each of the 13 counties sends one representative to the monthly meetings, held in Newark. For many years, Susan Zellman has been Sussex County’s representative. As she is stepping down, a new representative will need to be appointed.
Jerry Murphy, Mayor of Sparta, questioned the Lackawanna cutoff, saying, “Who is making these decisions?”
Fields responded that they are looking for people to come out and give input. Horsfeld promised that the public hearings would be advertised by the SCEDP.
Later in the evening, Horsfeld presented a tribute to each of the county’s 24 mayors, whether in attendance or not. She presented a slideshow, highlighting some trivia, and the accomplishments and challenges that each mayor faces.
She also explained the role of the Economic Development Parntership. Besides mentoring new businesses in the process of getting started, they provide real estate site location, liaison with utility companies, financing assistance, and advocacy with red tape. “Job creation is our primary role.”
Freeholder Richard Vohden spoke highly of VizTool, and of the opportunity to partner with NJTPA.
He shared, “My father used to quote Confucius, who said, ‘Plan ahead or find trouble on your doorstep.’”
Assemblyman Gary Chiusano felt it was “one of many good tools.”
He emphasized the need to gather input about what people value before making decisions.
Newton Mayor Sandy Diglio enjoyed the evening. “It is a very nice event, it’s nice to be appreciated. Tammy does a great job organizing it.”
Other mayors in attendance were: Michael Lensak, Andover Towhship; John Morgan, Andover Borough; Anthony Fredo, Branchville Borough; Jim Oscovitch, Byram Township; Gary Larson, Frankford Township, Carl Lazzaro, Fredon Township; Sylvia Petillo, Hopatcong Borough; and Jerry Murphy, Sparta Township.
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