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 Mayoral Candidate Bob Woodruff (R) for week two.

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.)

Sign Up for E-News

The Supreme Court affordable housing mandate has been successfully settled by the Township.  Of the 984 new housing units being planned, 210 (or 21%) will be allocated for affordable housing which is a highly successful outcome given that the original mandate for affordable housing was over 4 times this number. In addition, the Town is now free from “builder remedy lawsuits” and therefore, we are protected from over development for the maximum permissable period of 10 years. We are proud we have been able to craft a settlement that represents controlled growth consistent with the traditions and “small town feel” of Berkeley Heights.  

We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that our redevelopment agreements require builders to: (1) comply with our density, design and material standards; and (2) bear the cost burden for any significant required infrastructure changes. For example, we made sure that every redeveloper is responsible for the cost of any traffic and streetscape improvements that may be required, such as new traffic lights, sidewalks and decorative street lights. The redeveloper of our new 55 and older project on Locust Avenue performed a traffic study and as a result there will now be a traffic light at the Locust and Snyder Avenue intersection—paid for by them.

Our downtown redevelopment presents different challenges.  I’ve always said--somewhat tongue in cheek--that if a town doesn’t have a bit of a parking challenge, you probably don’t have a thriving downtown! We have done everything we can to ensure that parking is optimized by requiring every redeveloper provide interior parking so that existing public parking can continue to support our local businesses.  In addition, these redevelopers will be responsible for significantly improving the streetscape along Sherman Avenue. All of these enhancements will create a more customer-friendly and “walkable” downtown while also improving access to our train station.

Another concern with new development is the potential impact on our waste water treatment facility.  As a Councilman, I fought hard to protect our Town from expanding existing agreements with other municipalities to include their commercial properties.  We had the foresight to preserve our sewer capacity for future development of properties in our town and therefore we are now well positioned to absorb any increase these redevelopment projects will place on our facility. In addition, the Township will receive “hook-up” fees for each development project enabling us to fund future capital improvements.

The potential impact on our schools has also been considered. Our township planner and several of the redevelopers have performed school impact analyses and the BOE has performed their own independent analysis.  All of these studies have shown that the impact will not be significant and the BOE is comfortable that there is sufficient capacity in our school system to absorb any new students.

Clearly, the anticipated increase in new residents arising from these redevelopment projects will require us to closely monitor our public works resources. The establishment of our 5-year rolling capital plan has been a productive process for identifying and delivering the necessary tools and equipment to work smarter with less headcount.  

In closing, the bottom line, and my number one priority as your Mayor, has always been to make sure the residents of Berkeley Heights are able to live in a safe and secure community.  I have always worked closely with the Chief of Police to provide our Police Department with the tools and resources necessary to keep our residents and businesses safe. As these redevelopment projects become a reality, the Council and I will continue to collaborate with Chief DiPasquale to make sure that he has what he needs.  It is no accident that Berkeley Heights was recently ranked the 5th safest municipality in the State of New Jersey!  We should all be very proud.