Get to Know Berkeley Heights Township Council Candidate John Leo (R): Week 4 Question Regarding Vision for Berkeley Heights

John Leo, Republican Candidate for Berkeley Heights Township Council

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 John Leo 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? 

Sign Up for E-News

In five years I would like to see stability restored to the town. With a focus on debt reduction, fair tax programs and a simpler permit process -for businesses and residents- we could restore our town’s financial stance as well as stop planned tax increases.  The Town Council is responsible for ensuring that we maintain a low risk fiscal position which will help minimize downtown vacancies and instead of providing tax breaks to entice development we can have more control and choice over the aspects of future development.

We can meet our downtown goals by engaging with organizations such as Smart Growth America so that advisors, funding sources and our local businesses can have resources to make improvements and address their business needs. We would also activate business-savvy volunteers to search for new business prospects who pledge to diversify our community business culture and to provide assistance for new businesses. Farmer Markets, art galleries, food cooperatives and not-for-profit distributors could all be considerations and paired with storefront owners to promote a beneficial outcome for the community.  I'd like to see private community programs and services such as the Winter Walk continue to thrive and continue as a cornerstone of the Berkeley Heights culture. I envision children having an outlet to community activities via walkable and safe access to downtown businesses which provide community opportunities to youth especially those with special needs.

New housing developments already in the early planning stages are a massive threat to the character as well as fiscal status of Berkeley Heights. I am against the process by which these plans were initiated; without the input of the residents and by immediately resorting to tax abatements. Towns previously engaged in similar tax abatement contracts found the property tax burden on residents increased over time. The currently proposed tax payment plans offered to developers provide revenue to county and township but not schools. As schools would surely see enrollment increases, they will request budgetary increases thus increasing the property tax. I am also largely against these tax abatements and will advocate to see their use minimized in the future.  

The stigma against permits should be improved to where residents and businesses are less wary of the process and are willing to apply for permits when required. It is difficult for businesses and residents to find the requirements for the work they want to do and some requirements are so cumbersome that it turns owners off from performing the improvements. For businesses, permits can be lengthy and negatively affect the bottom line.  We need to empower inspectors and public works staff to provide information about construction and renovation on the front end and not after infractions occur. This will also entice business entities and residents to make improvements on their own accord thus maintaining the community.

Finally, if we avoid new debt and halt dwindling revenues our fiscal standing will better our reputation among financial institutions and future business prospects. Improving these measures means township investments will be cheaper and tax incentives won’t be necessary. Keeping tax incentives to a minimum maintains fairness to the long established businesses of town and will also curb future property taxes.

Generally, the idea is to activate and support private funding so this plan requires nothing of the township budget. Private institutes must be allowed to prosper and support the community before the government.  Though, working together, without special tax incentives and with increased revenue from simplified permit processes and zero vacancies we can finance a sustainable community, develop means to keep vacant commercial space occupied and, most importantly, maintain the character of our town.  

Editor's Note: Click here for handout as presented by Berkeley Heights Township Attorney Joseph Sordillo on PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) programs with hypothetical example for Hamilton Avenue property.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Berkeley Heights’ Women of the Week (WoW) Series features Beth Ferris Sale

March 18, 2018

In honor of the women who are driving change, blazing trails and nurturing society, the Berkeley Heights Diversity Council is pleased to announce an exciting initiative called, Women of the Week (WoW) Series. In the spirit of community, we wanted to honor the women right here in Berkeley Heights who are impacting the world in their own way for the remaining weeks of Women’s History ...

91 Young Musicians Work Together To Raise Nearly $14,000 for the New Jersey Youth Symphony

March 20, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ —91 young musicians in the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s Youth Orchestra (YO) ensemble have raised nearly $14,000 to date for the organization’s annual Playathon, a student-led fundraiser established by the New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) in 1985. The Playathon is the largest free concert of its kind and this Sunday over 450 students from 12 NJYS ensembles ...

UC Tech Student Volunteers Put Fun and Games to Work for Special Needs Learners

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Earlier this month, a group of 51 students in grades 9 to 11 from the Teacher Education Academy at UC TECH staged an indoor carnival for special needs learners. More than 140 participants from the community attended the event and enjoyed plinko, corn hole, dance revolution, hula hoop activities, a DJ, prizes and more.

UC TECH is part of the Union County ...

Soprano Anita Lyons Featured Soloist at Summit Symphony Concert March 25

The music of Grieg, Schumann ad Strauss will form the centerpiece of the next Summit Symphony Orchestra concert of the 2017-18 season, a performance which will take place March 25, beginning at 2 p.m., in the Summit High School Auditorium. Admission to all Summit Symphony concerts is free, with donations gratefully accepted. 

American Soprano Anita Lyons will ...

Host the Ultimate Party -- Extreme Foot Dart at the YMCA

Host the coolest, most unusual party EVER where kids will have a blast running and kicking balls around a gym trying to hit a ginormous inflatable target.   A variety of games and activities will be sure to keep your guests engaged and having fun followed by 45 minutes in our private party room.

 Party Times: April - October
Saturdays: 3:30pm-5:00pm

Members / ...

NPHS Student's Response to After School Walk-out Plan at NPHS

March 14, 2018

A group of students file into a science classroom amid a nervous din of chatter, the air is electric with excitement and nervousness. This small group of approximately 30 students are a studious bunch, largely members of the sophomore class with squeaky clean administrative histories. They are currently preparing to defy authority and stand up for what they believe in, even though they had been ...

New Providence's Allen W. Roberts School Gets Security Walk Through by Police Department after Bomb Threat

March 12, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Police Department sent a letter to parents and guardians of students at Allen W. Roberts Elementary School after a non-specific bomb threat was reported on Monday afternoon.

It's the second threat  reported at a New Providence school in March. The first threat was reported on March 5th at New Providence High School.

Emergency ...

Hillsborough: Suspended HS Athletic Director Charged with Theft

March 20, 2018

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Suspended Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Michael Fanizzi has been arrested and charged with the theft of $10,704 in athletic event receipts over a four-year period from 2013-2017, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Fanizzi, 53, a resident of Conover Way in Hillsborough who had been athletics director for 14 years,, had been suspended ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, March 21, 5:30 PM

Great Swamp Watershed Association, Morristown

Coffee & Tea Tasting - FREE GSWA Event

Arts & Entertainment Education Food & Drink

Wed, March 21, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

increase your networking and interviewing iq

Business & Finance Other

Thu, March 22, 7:00 PM

Summit Free Public Library, Summit

The Long march home: An American Soldier's Life ...

Education Other


Fri, March 23, 9:30 AM

Dunkin Donuts, Berkeley Heights

Let’s Meet Up to Clean Up! BH Walks, a New ...


Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts, Maplewood

Strollers Present John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt"

Arts & Entertainment

JCP&L Representative Describes Utility’s Actions During Storm Quinn, Answers Residents' Questions

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The format of this week’s  Berkeley Heights 'Here and Now' was turned on its head this week. Mayor Bob Woodruff reviewed what happened in the township following Storm Quinn and its predecessor Storm Riley, complete with statistics. He then asked a representative of JCP&L questions about the utility’s response, and how it was ...

Berkeley Heights, Here and Now: Redevelopment Updates

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Mayor's Round Table has been rebranded to "Berkeley Heights, Here and Now." This new format will continue to provide updates from Mayor Bob Woodruff, municipal offices and the Communications Committee want to hear from citizens, businesses and community organizations.

Included in this episode, Mayor Bob Woodruff addresses the status of the ...

Dear Susan: Beauty Tips from a Beauty Expert, Spring Edition

SUSAN BARBAGLIA, owner of Skin Deep Salon and Spa in New Providence, offers a wealth of knowledge and expertise as a leader in the beauty industry. With over thirty years experience in skin care, Susan can answer your most challenging beauty questions. Email your ...

You Want a Check for How Much!

 My first admissions gig was working for a small liberal arts college with a pretty hefty price tag.  Picture me at a college fair: name tag in place, pile of brochures ready to go.  An eager family would walk up and we’d start a conversation.  One of the first questions I’d get from parents was about cost and the moment that $50,000-plus figure left my mouth I ...

Now That The Dust Has Settled…Smart Tax Moves In 2018

Now that the dust has settled, here are some smart tax moves to lower your taxes and/or avoid higher taxes/penalties in 2018. These steps may be especially helpful if you live in high property and high income tax states (e.g. New Jersey, New York, California) since state and local tax deductions are capped.  Unfortunately all these changes mean you’ll need more time and energy to ...