EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - To inform the voting public about the views of the six candidates who are running for three spots available on the East Brunswick Town Council, TAPinto East Brunswick has asked each candidate to provide his/her thoughts on four questions. The answers to one of the questions will appear on this page each Friday in October. All candidates have submitted their answers in writing to this publication within a proposed time frame. There has been no editing of content.
What is your view of the proposed East Brunswick Redevelopment Zone on Route 18 South between Eggers Street and Ferris Street?
Curt Philpczak, Republican
The proposed East Brunswick redevelopment Zone on Route 18 South between Eggers Street and Ferris Street seems to be a very ambitious project. I understand there are a number of developers interested in this property. It has been my experience that developers that purchase a property don’t always follow the township proposal. I look forward to seeing specific purchaser’s proposals and work with all the shareholders to make that area the best for our whole community. We need smart, effective and efficient redevelopment without politics. No one person, group or political party should control the narrative. We all can agree that this needs to be done. Let’s work together, and let all good ideas be presented. Out of total respect for the current property owners, I’m not in favor condemnation. All property owners in East Brunswick should have their location and business respected and not have the threat of eviction because of the larger development.
Camille Clark, Incumbent Republican
I am in support of redeveloping the property on zone on Route 18 South. I am against and have always disliked the concept of condemnation via principles of eminent domain. I believe using this action is ill advised and against the principles and values that we, as a community, espouse. And if it comes to condemning the properties that will not bow to the dictates of the Mayor’s vision, then where will the Township get the money to buy the property? The Township Council, and the current Administration have already been named in lawsuits, some still ongoing, caused by this condemnation provision.
Also, a concern is that this area, the retail and hotel area, while hoping to have apartments over retail, did NOT make any of these units affordable per COAH guidelines. This from an Administration that claims to be all inclusive. Their answer to additional traffic in that area is to propose a side road running through the center of the zone that would run somewhat parallel to Rte 18. The speed limit on that apparent 2 lane roadway would be 25 mph with nose-in traffic. It is not a plan to alleviate traffic but to accommodate shoppers. The traffic would exit onto Tices Lane where a development of 275 apartments is proposed and in the planning stages. We cannot discuss one zone without considering the domino effect of concurrent building in adjacent areas. While I support the concept, I do not believe the Redevelopment Agency has come up with a good plan that will mesh with the fabric that is East Brunswick.
Dhar Khona, Republican
Redevelopment of various properties that are underutilized and/or poorly maintained is necessary; however, it should involve a comprehensive plan that takes into consideration not only the needs of the current residents and existing businesses, but also various other needs that will be affected by redevelopment such as traffic, infrastructure, sustainability and objectives of the township which would be the driving force for future residents and businesses. This endeavor should involve the input of our residents and various township entities such as the board of education, etc.
Jim Wendell, Incumbent Democrat
The areas along Rt. 18 that are currently designated for Redevelopment are largely vacant retail centers that have become functionally obsolete. These properties have been sitting in various stages of disrepair for most of the past ten years. To say these properties can be renovated is unrealistic. With the combined efforts of Mayor Cohen, and the Township Council over the past 12 months, we have formed The East Brunswick Redevelopment Agency. This Agency is comprised of several Township Residents with backgrounds in Real Estate and Development. Multiple public forums were held to gain input from Township residents. The Agency has worked tirelessly with Professional Staff to plan for the future for of areas, and to that end we are now in the midst of the process to assign Redevelopers.
The current plan includes a mixed use of restaurants, recreational facilities, retail, performing arts venues, a new transportation center and residences. As the Chairman of the Redevelopment Agency, I am proud of the current plan, one which incorporates a Boulevard that will direct the retail traffic away from Rt. 18, and provide what could be best described and a downtown village. For far too long, we have all looked at the vacant retail spaces in these areas. We all know that something has to be done to stimulate a rebirth. We are on the verge of great things, and the Development Community agrees, as we had more than 50 developers in attendance at our most recent information session for these projects. It is an exciting time in East Brunswick and I look forward to the rebirth of the Route 18 Corridor.
Kevin McEvoy, Democrat
Most residents agree that “something” must be done along the Route 18 corridor to stimulate redevelopment in areas of need. The glaring eyesores are the Loehmann’s Plaza and the adjoining Wiz/Gap property that are totally abandoned. Over the past year, Mayor Cohen and the Redevelopment Agency have detailed a plan for both areas, received the approval from the Planning Board and the Town Council to move forward with redevelopment, and have recently requested that developers prepare their vision for these designated sites. Once the developers’ plans are submitted to the Mayor and the Redevelopment Agency they will evaluate and negotiate in the best interests of the Township of East Brunswick’s residents. The Mayor’s ideas about smart growth, mixed-use, and a viable and sustainable “downtown” area are both progressive and contemporary in the use of these properties.
Sharon Sullivan, Democrat
I am in favor of the redevelopment on Route 18. In the past ten years, I have driven by and witnessed the deterioration of a formerly vibrant shopping center on our Route 18 corridor. Clearly, this blight will not resolve itself. A redeveloped Route 18 corridor will help East Brunswick’s tax ratables, and in turn, will help the residents’ municipal taxes. If the areas in need of redevelopment stay the way they are now, it does not help our township.
The proposal of the redevelopment that we support includes building housing, stores, restaurants, retail, a parking garage and a transportation center. It is a fantastic vision that will help the future of East Brunswick. I look forward to when the redevelopment is completed and I can sit at a café, eat, relax, and listen to music. In the past we have missed out on redevelopment opportunities, and we do not want to let it happen again.