MADISON, NJ – Longtime Planning Board member Judy Mullins is taking her seat again after a two-year absence, and although returning wasn’t part of her plan when she stepped down, she said she’s happy to be coming back.
Mullins, who owns Poor Herbie’s on Waverly Place with her husband, Dennis, said she was approached by Mayor Bob Conley and newly elected Council member Astri Baillie, who asked if she’d consider coming back to the planning board. Seeing a lack of representation for the business community, Mullins agreed.
“I enjoyed my time on the planning board,” she said. “I stepped aside in 2010 because I felt it was time for someone else to come to the table. But it was always my favorite of my volunteer efforts.”
The planning board, which she once chaired, plays a vital role in Madison’s growth and prosperity, and Mullins said her previous service gives her the added knowledge of what came before. The time off, however, had given her a renewed sense of what the borough’s issues are, and what needs to be addressed. In some ways, she’s coming back with fresh eyes. The newly revised master plan, for example, she hasn’t yet seen.
Among the issues she thinks the board needs to address are ordinances in need of updating, parking, how to keep existing Madison businesses going, and how to bring in more.
“You don’t see a lot of empty storefronts here now, but I’m concerned that we’re going to,” she said. “I think we need to make sure the first floor of our downtown businesses are for retail. Service-type businesses need to be on the second floor.”
Mullins said the borough also needs to pay more attention to downtown residences, and focus on areas that can be rehabilitated. She pointed to the development of the Green Village Road School property redevelopment as an example.
Parking, she said, is and always has been an issue for the borough’s downtown.
“Everything we do downtown has to take into account our parking situation,” she said. While the borough may make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly, the reality is that someone who drives to downtown Madison to shop is not going to load their purchases into their bicycle basket and pedal home.
“I hope at some point the planning board has the opportunity to address what combination of resources need to be used to solve our parking issues,” she said. “Purpose needs to drive all of the decisions we make.”
While Mullins said there is much work to be done, she’s glad to be coming back.
“I love Madison,” she said. “I’m happy just to be a part of whatever I’m asked to do.”