BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and 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 Township Council Candidate Michael D'Aquila for Week 2.

Week 2 Question: What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)

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After I moved to Berkeley Heights in 2005, I quickly learned to love our Town – a little sleepy, a little hilly, with a lot of heart. It was the perfect place for me, a professional engineer, to settle and raise my family.

Then, shortly after I began my term as Councilman, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Berkeley Heights’ affordable housing requirement about 860 new units. This would have required the construction of 5,000 overall new housing units and would bring big changes to Berkeley Heights. Through tough negotiations, the retention of legal and planning subject matter experts, and making hard decisions, the Township was able to reduce the number of affordable units to 389, with the actual number to be built set at 210.

At around the same time, the Town finally began to make real progress towards a new Municipal Complex. This major project will improve the way we conduct government and other civic functions.

The bottom line is that our Town now faces change that needs to be expertly managed.

My experience as manager of large corporate and educational campuses has already served the Town well and will be invaluable over the next several years. For example, I’ve recommended that each Township department (Police, DPW, Waste Water, Construction etc.) specifically evaluate and plan for how these projects will affect them during  construction and beyond (for example, logistics for deliveries, inspections, fire prevention, etc.).

Now, let’s talk about where we are today.  

  • To make sure our residents do not bear the financial burden of potential infrastructure changes, we required developers to comply with our density, design and material standards and be responsible for the cost of any significant infrastructure changes.  

  • We had multiple independent analyses performed by our planner, redevelopers and the Board of Education. All conclude that we have more than enough capacity to absorb the anticipated students from these potential developments.

  • Our waste water treatment facility has more than enough capacity to absorb these potential developments. In addition, we will be receiving “hook-up” fees from these projects that can help fund additional working capital needs.

  • We continue to encourage our DPW to work more efficiently.  My day-to-day job makes me very qualified to make recommendations on tools and equipment to deliver quality services without increasing headcount and taxes on residents.

  • With this development, we must anticipate additional traffic.  Each developer is required to perform, at their expense, a traffic study that considers not just their project but the impact of collective projects. Should these studies warrant a traffic light or traffic calming measures, the developer will bear the expense.  To date, the developer of the 55+ residential development at Locust Avenue is required to fund a much-needed light at the Snyder/Locust intersection.

  • Streetscape improvements are part of making our town a walkable, cohesive town.  So far, we have held developers responsible for improvements to Sherman Avenue, the old movie theater property, Locust Avenue, and Hamilton Avenue.

Berkeley Heights is on the verge on undergoing significant redevelopment. Having the right skills on the Council to manage the Township through this transition will be critical.  I bring these skills and look forward to continuing to serve the residents of Berkeley Heights during these exciting times.