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 Township Council Candidate Michelle Greco (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.)

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We are in a period of growth as we work towards meeting the NJ state mandated Affordable Housing requirement. Thankfully, our elected officials recently negotiated our requirement to build an additional 860 Affordable units down to 210 units. This allows us to build smaller, more attractive developments that are in line with our small town feel. While this requirement is not an option, we are looking for ways that it can benefit our town.  One potential benefit is that new residents can help our local businesses and continue to make us a THRIVING community.

Now more than ever we need the right people in office who can guide us through the change that is happening by providing careful oversight of the developers that will be building here who are naturally interested in maximizing their profit.  This state mandated requirement is forcing us to grow but we are planning this growth very carefully. The proposed developments are attractive and they seamlessly include the affordable units that we are required to build. This is in line with the inclusive community that we have here in Berkeley Heights.

Additional residents mean additional services. The Board of Ed has confirmed that enrollment in our schools is down and we have capacity – although professional studies indicate that these developments are not the kind that will attract families with multiple school age children.  Analysis has also been done to confirm that our sewer system has capacity and we even stand to gain some revenues from hook-up fees.

Our Planning Board, Legal and Engineering experts have carefully reviewed all of the developer proposals to ensure that the needs of our town are met.  Each one includes a plan for the developer to take on the responsibility of addressing traffic improvements. For example, Stratton House includes a commitment from the developer to improve the streetscape along Sherman Avenue with pavers and improved lighting. The Woodcrest development also includes a commitment from the developer to build additional sidewalks. These agreements are in place, but we need EXPERIENCED, ETHICAL council members to make sure the developers stick to them!

This is just the beginning of the development and it will be multiple years before buildings are complete and residents can start to move in.  I have experience analyzing workflows and identifying efficiencies. I plan to use the time we have to ensure that we do careful review of our services and the state of our infrastructure to determine what additional measures we can take for a smooth transition.  Our Police and DPW departments need to do analysis to define any potential impact and plan accordingly. We also need to continue to find ways to work smarter and more efficiently, using better technology instead of increasing headcount. I look forward to using my professional experience to work with our departments to identify the areas where we can become more efficient and I am confident that TOGETHER we can work towards continuing to be a THRIVING and efficient local community.