As everyone winds down from summer and gets ready for the school year to begin - no matter what that may look like (I know the frustration - I’m the mom of two young boys!) - the flurry of activity at Town Hall hasn’t slowed down one iota this summer. 

Light at Locust & Snyder

The long-awaited traffic light at the intersection of Locust & Snyder goes live this Thursday! It’s currently blinking for three days as a warning to residents of what is coming. The go-live date is just in time for school, as we anticipate more car traffic coming to and from Hughes. Safety Reminder: Vehicles should NOT block the box of the entrance/exit to the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad. It’s imperative emergency vehicles are able to enter and exit quickly if needed. This will be enforced. The developer of the 55+ project at 100 Locust paid for the installation of the light as part of its redevelopment agreement. 

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Electronics & Foam Recycling

Electronics recycling and recycling of #6 expanded polystyrene foam (EPS; we commonly call it “styrofoam” but that’s a trademarked name) will take place this Saturday, September 5, from 9 a.m. to noon in the old Little Flower/current library parking lot on Roosevelt Avenue. Please arrive by 11:45 a.m. at the latest, bring your ID and wear your mask. Our DPW workers will take the material out of your vehicles for you. 

Office of Emergency Management - Crisis Control

I want to join Mayor Devanney in applauding our Office of Emergency Management team - Coordinator and Fire Chief Tony Padovano and Deputy and Police Cpl. Danny Cuocci - with their herculean efforts in getting the power restored for our residents after Tropical Storm Isaias. JCP&L’s communication and restoration efforts were frustratingly slow and ineffective. Our BH team worked day and night to try to get JCP&L crews to the locations they needed to be and to get the work done. They provided very specific locations and exact causes of the outages to JCP&L, and checked on work order status repeatedly throughout each day. Working closely with our Berkeley Heights JCP&L representative, on the Sunday after the storm (FINALLY), our OEM coordinator and deputy personally met out-of-state JCP&L crews and took them to each known outage location to coordinate repairs. Utilizing this method, as well as obtaining information on remaining outages from residents via social media and email, we were able to get more than 300 residences back online in just 1 day. We are currently providing feedback to JCP&L on how their restoration and communication efforts can improve in the future. Mayor Devanney wrote to Governor Murphy insisting on major infrastructure improvements to prevent such widespread outages from happening in the future. 

Our DPW wasted no time clearing trees from roads and clearing basins to ensure proper drainage as the rain continued. After the storm, they worked with outside contractors to pick up debris from the entire town in just two weeks. Our Police Department worked with our OEM and DPW to ensure the safety of our roadways, and our sewer plant employees – who had to man the plant 24/7 while the emergency generators were running for three days - worked tirelessly to ensure everything ran in the right direction in those very important pipes. Our all-volunteer Communications Committee helped pump out information to residents that they weren’t receiving from JCP&L, while our volunteer Fire Department responded to more than 30 calls during the storm.

Berkeley Heights is so fortunate to have such loyal workers and volunteers who don’t think twice about taking the initiative when it comes to serving our residents. Thank you to all who helped us get through this storm – together, and we thank our residents for their patience and their feedback.

Redevelopment

All planned redevelopment projects are continuing to move forward; this is one activity COVID has not slowed down in our town, and we are unique in that respect. The PILOT money from several of these projects is dedicated to help pay off the debt for our new municipal complex, so we need to keep these projects moving. The Town will soon approve:

  • The financial agreement for the old Berkeley Florist property (Berkeley Crossing, Elite Properties)
  • The financial agreement for the old King’s property (Stratton House, JMF Properties)
  • The amended Redevelopment Plan for Stratton House, which has expanded to cover the hold hotel site for a more cohesive site (which will also offer 20 commuter spots and more public parking in the outdoor lot, as well as streetscape improvements that run down Sherman Ave.)
  • Ordinances and resolutions pushing forward the Chemtrade and Mill Creek settlement so that Mill Creek can get approvals and start work on their The Modera at Berkeley Heights project, located at the end of Lone Pine Drive.

Meanwhile, Toll Brothers is sending it’s Township-approved TWA to the state Department of Environmental Protection for approval; we hope to close on that property on Hamilton Avenue toward the end of this year/early 2021. Please follow all redevelopment updates here. 

Municipal Complex

Exciting progress is happening at the municipal complex site, slated for completion at the end of October! We put out the following information in various formats to keep residents informed, all of which can be found at this page of our website

  • Weekly construction forecasts
  • Weekly progress updates 
  • Weekly on-site videos detailing progress of past week and what’s coming up the following week
  • Financial analyses
  • Project budgets
  • Cost overrun (change order) details
  • Articles of interest
  • & more

Stormwater, Drainage Study & Roads

Draft results from the “West side drainage study” - surveying the areas of Emerson, Mercier, Orchard, and down the hill - were presented to Council at its August 18 meeting. While the results are still being finalized, hydraulic experts and surveyors had to study roughly one-quarter of the entire town for months to get accurate data on the underground piping that has been used to carry increasing amounts of water as the town has developed over the years.

Any potential “fixes” will likely cost the Township between $15 and $20 million and take years to complete - unfortunately, there is no easy approach to resolving the decades of drainage issues that have combined with increased development to bring us to this point. The Township will be seeking significant funding from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank at interest-free financing in order to start this project once plans are complete and we have a solid financial plan in place to begin. 

Stormwater management has been an increasing problem throughout New Jersey as more homes are built, impervious surfaces expand, and major weather events bring deluges of rain. Antiquated infrastructure simply cannot keep up. To mitigate this, the Township has been addressing increased stormwater runoff at the plan stages in the past few years. 

For example, whenever any new development plans come before the Township, we require the developer/owner to ensure measures are put into place to reduce the amount of stormwater coming off their property.

In the Fall of 2019, we created a Stormwater Task Force comprised of myself, our Township engineer, and three members of our Environmental Commission who are very proficient in stormwater management. We have been working on various stormwater-related ordinances to put into place; these include a grading and discharge ordinance, among others. 

This Stormwater Management Task Force is working with our Communications Committee to put together our PR action plan to meet our obligations as a Tier A municipalities relating to educating our residents on stormwater management and what each and every one of them can do to help reduce damaging stormwater runoff. We look forward to working with the Environmental Commission on the education components of these obligations. 

Upcoming road projects:

  • Roads around Lincoln and Plainfield, on the opposite side of Springfield Avenue from TD Bank and Vine Republic (2020 Union County Infrastructure Grant money) 
  • Milling, paving and some minor drainage work on Greenbriar, Ferndale and Hastings (FY 2020 DOT grant money)
  • Repaving of train station commuter parking lot
  • Milling and paving Fairfax Drive, along with adding much-needed drainage, new elevations for curbing and sidewalk repairs. (2020 capital money) 
  • Paving Cottage Street (2020 capital money) 
  • Possibly doing some extra work around the Mountain Park area, depending on how much the bids come in for to do the work above 

Apply for Permits, Check Status Online - Fast!

Our Township offices remain closed to the public but our departments have put significantly more forms and processes online to better accommodate our residents. One area that has been booming since COVID is our Construction/Building department. Whether it be residents wanting to install pools, fences, add on to their homes or do other home improvement projects, the office is bustling. 

Here’s what residents can do to get faster service and answers to their questions regarding permits: Create a free SDL account and do everything online!

Everything you need to know is here. With SDL, you can:

  • Schedule inspections
  • Make online payments
  • Submit a Zoning application
  • Search permit status and history
  • Check assessed property values
  • Search inspection history
  • View town maps
  • & more.  

So, if you want to check on, say, your pool permit application, simply sign up for an SDL account here: (http://sdl.town/sdlBrklyHghts), click “Sign Up,” type in your address in the “Find a Property” box, or enter your permit number in the opposite box, and select the activities you need - Zoning application, schedule an inspection, check on a permit application, and anything else you need. You can also:

  • Submit fence applications
  • Submit shed applications
  • Apply for a tree removal permit
  • & more

Questions, comments or concerns? Please feel free to email me directly at lviana@bhtwp.com