For those of you who have no idea what the Administrator does (and I’m guessing it’s a lot of you!), it’s essentially the town manager. I oversee the day-to-day operations of the town, all of our municipal departments and personnel, and assist department heads and our Chief Financial Officer with the budget. In our form of government, I’m appointed by the Mayor.
I plan to bring you at least monthly updates on what’s going on in town, how your taxpayer dollars are working for you, and what you can expect from your local government in the coming months.
Here are some of the bigger activities going on in town right now, as well as some initiatives being taken by the Township:
You may have heard (and seen while driving around town) that there are a series of new developments coming to town. These developments all include mandated Affordable Housing units to keep the Township in compliance with the Settlement Agreement the Township entered into with Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), which was approved by the state Court when it granted the Township a final Judgment of Compliance and Repose (or "JOR"). The JOR protects the Township from Mount Laurel lawsuits, including builder’s remedy lawsuits, until July of 2025. The answers to some most common questions we hear can be found at the link below (THANK YOU to our Communications Committee for helping us put this document together!):
- Woodcrest at Berkeley Heights (100 Locust Ave; 55+ over community) - Under construction
- The Terrace at Berkeley Heights (old Berkeley Theater) - Under construction
- Mondelli Property (Plainfield Ave) - Redevelopment Plan done; Redevelopment Agreement and Financial Agreement underway
- Toll Brothers (110 Roosevelt Ave) - Plans approved by Planning Board February 20
- Mill Creek (Lone Pine) - Redevelopment Plan being amended; will be sent to Council for review, then Planning Board
- Stratton House - Redevelopment Plan being amended; will be sent to Council for review, then Planning Board
- Berkeley Florist - Redevelopment Plan being amended; will be sent to Council for review, then Planning Board
- Connell - Future mixed use development in planning stage, needs zoning change approval
Multi-County Shared Services Group
This month, I will hold the first meeting of a shared services group we launched with a dozen business administrators in neighboring towns, spanning four counties - Morris, Union, Somerset and Essex (dubbed “MUSE” - which by definition is “a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration.” Seems appropriate! This group will periodically include public works officials, sewer directors, police chiefs and other department heads as needed, to identify potential services and equipment that may be able to be shared among towns, bringing down costs. Topics to be discussed will include roads, cyber security, public information officers, affordable housing and more.
We hired a new part-time zoning enforcement officer who is helping to enforce local zoning laws; he started in February. This officer helps to regulate all land use requirements, including, but not limited to fence and building height, building setbacks, landscaping, lighting and signage.
BH Becomes First NJ Town to Use Pioneering Disinfecting System
On February 18, Berkeley Heights became the first town in New Jersey that has approval to use
Peracetic Acid (PAA) as the sole source disinfectant in its wastewater treatment operations in an effort to meet stringent New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regulations on chlorine-produced oxidants (CPO). While the current treatment required two chemicals and therefore two delivery systems, the sole use of PAA requires only one delivery system. The Berkeley Heights wastewater employees impressively built the system by themselves - for $45,000 - instead of hiring an outside contractor, further saving the Township money. Kudos to our amazing waste water team!
I’m currently working with our Township Engineer and some extremely insightful members of our Environmental Commission on a few ordinances relating to effective stormwater management: updating our stormwater control ordinance, grading ordinance and an illicit connection/sump pump ordinance.
Why do we need these? Not only has the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) been pushing municipalities to enact tougher stormwater control measures, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is updating its stormwater strategy to focus on pursuing immediate actions to help communities address their stormwater challenges.
Stormwater runoff is generated from rain and snowmelt events that flow over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots, and building rooftops, and does not soak into the ground. The runoff picks up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils, and dirt/sediment that can harm our rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters. But the runoff also erodes our roads. In many cases, if grading is not done appropriately on new construction or a newly landscaped lot, runoff finds its way to a neighbor’s yard, leaving them to deal with even more standing water on their own property. In addition, sump pumps discharging onto the street not only erode our roads, but they cause dangerous conditions in freezing temperatures, when ice forms on our streets. “Illicit connections” refers to when residents tie their sump pumps into our municipal sanitary sewer system, thereby causing the township to pay exorbitantly more to treat clean water.
Enacting these ordinances will do the following:
- Help protect and preserve our infrastructure (roads primarily)
- Help ensure water runoff goes where it is supposed to on one’s property
- Increases safety of our streets by reducing icy conditions
- Will keep municipal sewer costs down
- Reduce pollution by filtering water naturally and on site instead of directing it straight to streams
- Increase water quality over time
Do you have feedback or ideas on stormwater management practices? On how to disconnect sump pumps? Or ideas on grading options that may affect you? Please email me and give me your ideas!
Road reconstruction projects that were started in late 2019 around Princeton, Fairfax and Rutgers, as well as Briarwood East/West, will be completed in the Spring when the weather warms up and when asphalt becomes more seasonally available.
Meanwhile, our DPW workers have been repairing storm basins around the town, and our DPW Recreation Division has been working with our Recreation Department on some capital and other projects to get ready for Playground camp this summer.
Light at Locust & Snyder
The much-anticipated traffic light at the intersection of Locust and Snyder was ordered in January; it will take about 17 weeks total for delivery. This light is being paid for by Garden Homes, the developer of the 55+ redevelopment project underway at 100 Locust Avenue. Meanwhile, please heed the plethora of stop signs at that intersection!
Township Notice of Big Council Items
The Township continues to improve educating residents in advance on “hot topic” items coming before the Township Council. These topics would include the more newsworthy subjects and items that have potentially more impact to residents. This process has improved, yet we know it can be better.
Our goal is to ensure residents know what ordinances and presentations are coming before the council, what they mean and how they might impact our residents. The Township Administration is working closely with Council and the Communications Committee to continue to increase what information is available and you as much of a “heads up” as possible via:
- Township website (www.BerkeleyHeights.gov)
- Monthly Newsletter (sign up at: https://mailchi.mp/4db6e3027d21/bhcommunications)
- Social Media Channels
- Township & Communications Facebook pages, Instagram (@berkeleyheightsgov)
I urge you to SIGN UP for all options and especially sign up to receive notifications from the Township Website. When newsworthy information is posted, you will hear about it right away. It’s the best way to stay informed about what’s going on in town.
We welcome and encourage constructive input; please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas.
We are working with the Berkeley Heights Board of Education, our Office of Emergency Management, emergency services, Union County Health Officer and the state to closely monitor news of the respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus; the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).