RARITAN, NJ - A goal repeated often by Raritan Mayor Zachary Bray and members of the borough council has been the revitalization of Main Street and the repopulation of the former Stop & Shop strip mall.
Providing support to existing businesses and bringing in new retailers is a worthwhile endeavor, but a difficult one given the impact online shopping has had nationally and even globally.
At the Feb. 25 council meeting, a step was taken to move the effort forward – the re-establishment of a building and property maintenance sub committee.
Bray explained that there was an ad hoc committee some years ago that he was interested in reviving.
Actually, Bray said after the meeting, the idea for an advisory committee was suggested by Lou Gara, the borough’s zoning officer, to help with "problem" areas facing Raritan.
Bray said the new committee will be charged with taking “a look at our property maintenance and building codes and seeing where we can be enforcing them in a stricter manner.”
“Furthermore,” the mayor said, “I am asking them to take a look at codes from similar towns in New Jersey (towns with a main street) and see what they have on their books, and if we can add to our code to include ordinances that will help us clean up the downtown and surrounding business district. Our zoning officer, and property maintenance officer, Michael Mulcahy, will be integral parts of this committee.”
Bray nominated councilmen Paul Giraldi and Michael Patente, along with planning board members Adele Goetsch and Debra Thomas, to join Gara and Mulcahy on the committee.
The mayor added that he wants the seventh member to be a local business owner.
As it turns out Ray Tropiano, owner of Tropiano & Son Jewelers, was at the meeting to share his concerns about the impact on businesses of the planned street fair on Mother’s Day weekend. Bray asked if he would sit on the committee, and Tropiano agreed.
The plan is for the committee to meet once a month.
The goal of the committee,” Bray said, “is to assist the governing body and the economic development committee in jumpstarting our downtown business district.”
On another economic front, borough engineer Stan Shrek announced that the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority’s TAP grant is moving along. It is a 2016 grant that was supposed to be completed by 2019, but moving the paperwork through the state system has proved to be daunting.
Shrek said that on the day of the meeting, he received word that the contracts for the proposed work, which had been under review by the state attorney general’s office, have been approved and sent back to the Department of Transportation for final review.
The Transportation Alternatives - Set Aside Program (or TAP) provides federal funds for community based “non-traditional” projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic and environmental aspects of the nation’s intermodal system.
In Raritan, the grant money will be used to improve the streetscape from the train station to Somerset Street, on down to the Nevius Street Bridge, providing a connection throughout the town.
“We should expect to see some great economic activity after that’s completed,” said Shrek.
A second kick-off meeting will be held once the grant is finalized.