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 Jeanne Kingsley 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? 

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Listening to residents’ thoughts and ideas is foremost. Together, we have developed a collective vision for Berkeley Heights: keeping our small town feel, tree lined streets featuring decorative streetlights and paver sidewalks, centrally located beautiful parks, a bustling, vibrant pedestrian friendly town center with a new Library and modern hub for recreation programs, a resource center for Senior citizens; a Police headquarters watching over a busy transit center with ample commuter parking, and new bike paths to reduce the number of cars needed. We seek the appropriate balance of residential, commercial, retail and industrial space. Ours is a community that is inclusive; where businesses and residents partner with local government to create a thriving place to live and work. We are all neighbors and taxpayers. We accomplish more by working together, seeking common ground.

I've worked hard with residents, laying the ground for this vision. Council adopted Municipal Code Article 19, tightening design standards for downtown creating a more cohesive streetscape. Through twenty public meetings and extensive research, a new Municipal Complex is on the horizon. Studies show that Municipal centers located in downtowns bring increased activity to local businesses and services, adding to the local economy. Our small town feel coupled with easy access to NYC by train and Route 78 increases property values.

Our location, however, can also make us an attractive target for development. This Council is determined to protect our town and manage this development, passing ordinances to control density from intense demands by Intervenors for state-mandated affordable housing. Ongoing negotiations led by Councilman Marc Faecher have successfully reduced the number of units developers sought to impose and seeks a COAH settlement that controls density for 10 years, allowing us to say NO to future developers. We have been in constant touch with our BOE, identifying a current decline in enrollment and that projects underway can be absorbed by our school system. Our sewer system has the capacity, and each new development pays a connection fee to the Town. Current projects underway: 

  • Sherman Avenue – Kings Project (150 Units) and Movie Theatre (20 Units) were successfully negotiated to height and density that fit our community. Developers must improve Sherman Avenue including required sidewalks and street lights. Each development has self contained parking including use by existing retail stores.
  • 100 Locust Ave – negotiated 196 age-restricted rental units offering a wonderful option to those over 55, creating new ratables and no impact on our school system.
  • Public/Private Partnerships saving the Community Pool and keeping the YMCA. The new configuration keeps this property from further housing development. Together, we found a way to provide revenue through a lease arrangement, additional gym space for the Recreation Dept, PAL and other programs, and kept the Y’s essential community services including their support programs for cancer patients and child care services that are invaluable to many residents. All with no expense to the tax payer --- PARTNERSHIP!

Public/Private Partnerships are fundamental to improving our community. Cutting services is not the appropriate choice. Finding new ways to pay for projects and programs is. That means collaborative relationships with community volunteers, BOE, county and state officials, business and organizational stakeholders. Thus far these partnerships have resulted in:

  • Shared services with the Board of Education improving fields and reducing costs
  • Veterans Memorial Park – without taxpayer dollars created this beautiful tribute to our Veterans and is a centerpiece downtown
  • PepperTown Park Renovation – a tribute to our rich heritage, cultural center, and family friendly park without burdening the taxpayer

Public Input is essential in updating our Master Plan providing long-range vision for our built environment and a policy foundation for the Township’s land use laws and regulations. The courts require that the Township’s ordinances, planning decisions, and regulations have a rational connection to the Master Plan, including its vision and goals.

The protection and safety of our community is paramount. Staffing our Police Department reflects our population size, proximity to New York City and easy access to route 78. This Council fully supports our Police Department. DPW staffing is essential to ensure the upkeep of our community. Our capital improvements roads plan is ahead of schedule. Our Safe Routes to Schools initiative hopes to garner grant funding for improved sidewalks and bike paths. Planning means finding new ways to develop and fund programs. Together we have made substantial progress and we can continue this momentum. Please visit kingsleyfaecher2017.com to learn more. The Primary is June 6. Polls are open from 6am to 8pm.