Edited as of 11:41 a.m., May 22, 2017
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the June 6 Primary election, the Republican candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.
The following answer is from Republican candidate Marc Faecher for Week 4.
Week 4 Question: Please provide your vision for Berkeley Heights over the next five years including your vision for downtown, housing, business community, and parks and recreation. Please explain how this vision will impact the township's infrastructure including school enrollment, road/traffic and services (sewer/waste treatment, police, fire, rescue). How will these changes impact the municipal tax rate per average assessed household?
A Collective Vision:
Berkeley Heights has a special small-town feel we are determined to protect. No one wants over-development. I’ve worked hard to preserve the Township’s character and tradition in the face of unprecedented affordable housing litigation. Plans are well underway creating a more vibrant, pedestrian friendly downtown including green space: the completed Veterans Memorial Park, soon to be improved Peppertown Park, Mondelli Park, and modernized Municipal Complex.
Affordable Housing Litigation/Downtown:
We've been faced with state-mandated affordable housing demands that had the potential to drastically impact all aspects of our Town. “Intervenors” (including affordable housing advocates and builders) used experts to propose that Berkeley Heights should be required to construct in excess of 860 affordable housing units. In response to that litigation we developed a proactive two-pronged strategic plan to:
- challenge the number of units sought by intervenors
- negotiate with individual developers to reduce density and guarantee compliance with our new design standards (Part 19), ensuring projects will have a high-end level of finish. ( http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/notices/Affordable-Housing-Legal-Analysis.pdf) ( http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/affordable-housing/affordable-housing-summary.pdf)
I am proudly leading our negotiations, and while not quite complete, we have managed development resulting in significantly reducing the number of housing units to 389—Satisfied via credits for past work, a prior payment made to Newark in exchange for housing credits, and some new projects. (https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/articles/court-approves-berkeley-heights-settlements-with) We hope the settlement is adopted by the Court on May 30th, satisfying not only state-mandated obligations, but revitalizing our downtown and several vacant/underutilized sites:
Former Kings, Movie Theatre and 100 Locust Avenue involve rehabilitation of vacant properties that are eyesores in Town. These satisfy affordable housing obligations and revitalize properties while providing for ample on-site parking. ( http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/affordable-housing/berkeley-heights-site-plan-set-100716.pdf ) The Kings developer is required to fund a pedestrian streetscape improvement project along Sherman Avenue leading to Plainfield Avenue. (http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/affordable-housing/exhibit-sherman-ave-streetscape.pdf) (http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/affordable-housing/movie-theater-exhibit.pdf)
Redevelopment at 100 Locust not only creates a new/enhanced ratable, it offers a popular alternative for Seniors looking to downsize and stay in Town. This developer must complete a traffic study and pay for a traffic signal at the intersection of Locust and Snyder. (http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/affordable-housing/exhibits-locust-avenue.pdf)
Other projects are under consideration: 500 Connell Center (instead of office space to be constructed there), the end of Lone Pine Drive, former Berkeley Florist property, and the vacant parcel adjacent to Delicious Heights.
All of these projects are either age-restricted or predominantly 1 and 2 bedroom units (a very small number of 3 bedrooms as required by affordable housing law). The impact on our schools should be manageable because enrollment has dropped nearly 200 children from 2012 to present. We will continue to work with the Board of Education ensuring no surprises.
We must continue to hold developers accountable and strategically manage related litigation going forward.
Modernized Municipal Complex:
The need for new facilities cannot seriously be disputed. Prior Councils have recognized this since the mid-1980s. Following a needs analysis, numerous public meetings and design charrettes with neighbors, planning is underway to construct a new complex adjacent to its existing location including: a new Library, Administrative, Recreation and Senior space, DPW upgrades and modern police facilities. (http://berkeleyheightstwpnj.gov/notices/Proposed-Municipal-Complex.pdf) Some additional commuter parking will be near the train station. We recognize parking is a challenge and are researching new solutions. Instead of constructing a costly, unsightly parking deck at a cost of $15-30K per space, we are exploring the use of UBER, similar to the successful program launched in Summit. ( https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/articles/berkeley-heights-mulls-using-uber-to-solve-parkin)
Maintaining Affordability/Increasing Revenue:
Only 17.64% of our tax dollars go towards the municipal budget. The majority funds school, county and library budgets. We remain vigilant in spending every municipal dollar, but cutting resident services is not an answer--creative solutions are. Successful Public/Private partnerships with volunteers, grants and private donations made Veterans Memorial Park happen—a similar effort is underway at Peppertown Park. A new YMCA is planned at the Community Pool site. The lease requires over $1M in capex by the Y to construct a new pool and facilities, SAVING our Community Pool, keeping the YMCA in Town while generating additional revenue, all WITHOUT ADDITIONAL TAX BURDEN. Critics would have allowed the pool to collapse and left the Y and its vial community services out in the cold. (https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/articles/berkeley-heights-community-pool-will-be-open-this) Increasing ratables generating additional revenue, holding the line on expenditures, and promoting volunteerism in lieu of costly consultants are solutions. ( https://www.tapinto.net/towns/berkeley-heights/articles/veterans-memorial-park-dedication-draws-large-cro)
Together we have made tremendous progress, and can continue to do so. With a bright future ahead, Jeanne Kingsley and I ask for your continued support in the June 6th Primary. Polls are open from 6am to 8pm. Please visit www.kingsleyfaecher2017.com to learn more. Thank you.