BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Suburban Chamber of Commerce has been building its presence in Berkeley Heights through monthly breakfasts held on the third Friday of the month. About 75 local business and civic leaders attended the April networking meeting. 

The theme of these meetings are really to be known, said Dr. Patrick Smith, Vice Chairman of the Suburban Chamber of Commerce. "We want to be known to one another." -- "We want to be known to the community and we want the community to realize what a wonderful town it is." 

This month featured a discussion with Mayor Bob Woodruff and council members Manny Couto, Peter Bavoso, Council President Jeanne Kingsley and Council Vice President Michael D'Aquila. In addition, BHPD Chief John DiPasquale, Township Administrator John Bussiculo, Recreation Director Tom Barton, Berkeley Heights Library Director Stephanie Bakos, Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad (BHVRS) President Joe Savino, BHVRS Chief Ori Sternberg, Rotary Club members, BHEF President Carla McGlynn, VFW Commander Thomas Lombardi and many local business owners were in attendance. 

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Mayor Woodruff talked about the changes that are happening in Berkeley Heights. "The face of this town in the next few years will markedly change," said Woodruff. 

These changes are due to the development of various projects related to the court approved affordable housing obligations. "You are going to put the better part of 470 [new] units within a rather close relationship to all of your businesses, this can not but help us. The quality will attract the kind of people that you want in your business," said Woodruff.

In addition to these 470 units, he said that Connell is currently planning to put 328 high end units in Connell Corporate Park next to the newly opened Embassy Suites hotel. 

Woodruff explained the affordable housing obligations have allowed the township to control density and quality. "With change you have to manage it. When you have developers, you have to have rules, you have to have standards, and you have to have an understanding as to how things are going to be done," he said.  "The affordable housing has allowed us to develop the right stuff. We took vacant buildings to address our affordable housing issue -- but at the same time, help the town grow." 

Woodruff also talked about the township's status of choosing between developers -- and their goal of getting a shovel in the ground for the new municipal complex within the next few months -- starting with the construction of the salt dome.  

Woodruff invited the businesses to attend a May 10 meeting when Township Planner Mike Mistretta will hold meetings at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.  at the meeting room at the Town Hall. Mistretta will go into detail of all the construction projects going on, said Woodruff.  

Woodruff said that money coming in through the hotel tax of the new Embassy Suites and PILOT program dollars will address debt [to pay down the $28 million bond for the new Municipal Complex] and surplus. "It's not about buying toys," said Woodruff. "It is about keeping debt manageable and letting people know that they're getting quality with what is moving in town." 

Council President Jeanne Kingsley addressed the traffic light issue at the intersection of Snyder and Locust Avenues and said it is a requirement of the Locust Avenue developers. 

She also said it is important for the businesses to be informed about the real facts. "The goal is to drive business to downtown and into Berkeley Heights." This was accomplished with last fall's successful Restaurant Week and the goal of the upcoming Beauty and Wellness Weeks beginning April 28 through May 12.

Councilman Pete Bavoso was next to address the room with respect to evolving communication improvements and said the township is currently in the process of looking at a new municipal website and are working with a developer. Meanwhile, the current website is functional and advised the attendees to sign-up for e-alerts. He also said Berkeley Heights Here & Now [Formerly Mayor's Round Table] has been rebranded to include three segments: Mayor's discussion, community corner, spotlights on citizens and business. 

Upcoming Events: 

Wednesday, April 25 - Wine Down Wednesday at Sharing Network in New Providence

Monday, April 30 - 8th Annual Suburban Chamber of Commerce 'Tying the Communities Together Awards Dinner has been rescheduled due to inclement weather from March 21 to April 30. For information to attend or sponsor contact khadley@suburbanchambers.org.

Friday, May 4 - First Friday Networking Breakfast at Grand Summit Hotel - Michael Goldberg holds Knockdown Networking workshop

April 28 to May 12 - Beauty and Wellness Weeks. Visit website for details. 

Sunday, May 13 - Summit Area YMCA Mother's Day 5K to benefit Livestrong Program 

Friday, May 18 - Suburban Chamber of Commerce Berkeley Heights Networking Breakfast

Saturday, May 19 - Art in the Park in Peppertown Park

Monday, May 28 - Memorial Day Parade

Saturday, June 2 - Relay for Life of Berkeley Heights

Saturday, June 9 - Rubber Ducky Race

Sunday, June 24 - Berkeley Heights Street Fair

In addition to the networking opportunity, Smith discussed the accomplishments of the Chamber and how businesses can contribute and become more attached to the community by getting involved. The Chamber partners with many organizations in town working on projects and events that include BH Downtown Beautification Committee's Fill-a Basket Beautification project, Memorial Day Parade, Rubber Ducky Festival, Berkeley Heights Street Fair, Free Summer Concert in the Park Series, 5K Road Races, VFW Projects, and Clean Community Day and more.

Visit Suburban Chamber of Commerce website for information on how to participate and get involved. Contact Dr. Pat Smith for more information by emailing drsmith@drpatricksmith.com or phone (908)464-8899.

Liberty Group was the breakfast sponsor, Dunkin Donuts provided tea and coffee, Derco Print provided the event printing.