BARNEGAT, NJ –  As a land developer makes way for a new shopping center on West Bay Avenue, some residents expressed their displeasure. News that a Dollar General and Auto Zone encompass Phase 1 of the project was met with further dissatisfaction.  A Barnegat local sought answers from the Township Committee regarding new businesses coming to town.

Geralynn Dalton’s inquiry was read into the record yesterday at the July meeting of the Township Committee. The governing body is not yet allowing in-person participation at meetings. Residents who would typically offer commentary during the Public Session submit information to the Clerk’s office in advance of the meeting.

“Who approves businesses coming into the town?” asked Dalton. “Property keeps coming into town, and all we get are the same or same businesses that we already have.  There have to be better for this community.”

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Committee Al Bille sits on the Planning Board and was the first to address the inquiry. He indicated that he and Township Administrator Marty Lisella have courted numerous restaurants and stores with the intent of bringing them into Barnegat.

“It’s not like we’re passive,” stressed Bille. “I know others on the committee have done the same.”

Mayor John Novak, who is also a land-use attorney, offered further details. He explained that the private sector has market experts that conduct studies that review prospective locations for businesses.

“The selection of businesses is based on the market, as part of the free enterprise system,” Novak shared. “Barnegat is a unique bedroom community that also has a shore/seasonal component.”

Novak suggested that businesses selling flip flops and summer gear might thrive in Florida. They offer year-round beach access. However, the same types of shops would fail in other states.

“The committee does not select the stores that come into downtown Barnegat, “emphasized Bille. “They are selected by store chains that feel they can be successful.”

According to Bille, he and Councilman Al Cirulli plan to establish a downtown business owner’s working group. The exchange of ideas should prove advantageous for local entities.

Meanwhile, many Barnegat residents are unaware that some plans have been in place for decades. When Heritage Bay was constructed in 1997, the land in front of it was designated for retail space at that time. The current stores were slated as part of the project as far back as 2011.

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