MADISON, NJ – Residents obviously care about the historic streetscape of Madison, judging by the crowd of 75 or more people at Wednesday's community forum in the borough’s Public Safety Building at the corner of Prospect Street and Kings Road.

Mayor Robert Conley introduced a panel of speakers from Mountain Lakes, Hoboken and other area towns to talk about the steps they have taken to maintain the character of their communities.

“We’re here to share ideas, to look at tools for preservation and recommendations,” Conley said. “This is the start of the process; it’s not finished.” Jeff Gertner, who serves on the Planning Board, said, “It’s truly exciting to see so many people who love Madison.”

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The panel consisted of Doug Williams, Allan Kratz, Barton Ross, Tom Duggen and Tom Menard. Each speaker brought a different perspective, but all agreed that Planning and Zoning Boards needed to coordinate with Historic Preservation Commissions in developing ordinances and guidelines for streetscapes and tree canopies.

Katz discussed the need for community wide education, intergenerational connections and including carpenters, masons and other workers in the historic preservation of older homes.

Barton Ross showed slides of historic homes in Summit, Millburn, Plainfield and Montclair, demonstrating how some were preserved, moved, or incorporated into a buyer’s larger home. A 1908 small house in Short Hills was a gardener’s cottage on the estate belonging to the first president of Garden Clubs of America, he said. In another example, the town used bond money to purchase a corner lot that was turned into a rain garden. “That may become a draw for the town,” he said.

In Mountain Lakes, 14 historic homes were lost to demolition or fire. “People didn’t appreciate what was there,” another speaker said.

Following the presentation, Conley broke the crowd into discussion groups, asking them to address: How serious is historic preservation in Madison? What did you learn from the panel? What can work in Madison? And what are your top five recommendations?

Resident Johanna Habib said her group talked about flexibility in zoning and planning, with concessions to builders. They urged slowing down the process, addressing density and the impact on the streetscape.

Other suggestions included reviving the Historic Madison Tour, documentation of historic properties, looking at the Mountain Lakes website as a model, promoting historic issues on Rosenet and being willing to compromise.

Resident and former mayor Woody Kerkeslager said there should be more housing options for seniors and that he has been looking in Morris Township and Summit instead. “We’re not serving the seniors or young adults,” he said. Another person said, “We should have the ability for all different people to live here and make sense out of our housing stock.”

Mayor Conley said the next step would be to form a committee and to schedule more town hall meetings. He urged those who signed in to put a star by their name if they would be willing to serve.