MAPLEWOOD, NJ - More than 25 concerned residents gathered at Morrow Church on Monday night to learn the results of Engage Maplewood’s first survey and to discuss the post office redevelopment plan.

Dave Helmkamp and John Harvey, two of Engage Maplewood’s founding members, gave a brief presentation about how and why the group came together. The group aims to improve the level of communication and discussion about matters of importance to those who live and/or work in Maplewood.

The survey covered the ways people receive information about government and non-government issues and events.  It also asked about the impending Post Office redevelopment project.

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Surprisingly, of the 191 respondents, while 94.8 percent live in Maplewood and 21 percent work in Maplewood, only 63 percent consider themselves “regular Maplewood shoppers.”

In regard to the post office, 89.4 percent said they are aware that the post office will be closing and that a new building is going to take its place.  A full 75 percent disagree or strongly disagree with the notion of the Township Committee choosing a developer for the project without public input, and 94 percent feel that at least some of the developers’ alternatives should be shared with the public.

When asked if the United States Postal Service should maintain a permanent retail postal presence in Maplewood Village, 83 percent agreed or strongly agreed.

The group present for the gathering held a lively discussion of the post office project.

“I have spoken at the Township Committee meetings on this issue, and have never felt so unheard,” said local business owner Kevin Muench. “It seems like parking is not even being really considered.”

One attendee who declined to identify himself, but noted that he had been on the Township Committee for eight years, said that village residents should work to ensure that the project matches what they want in that space. He said it is imperative to attend the Committee meetings and speak up to make clear “what is it that the community needs.”

Business owner John Dilley expressed concern over the amount of parking the new project would include.  The development guidelines specify only that the number of available spaces should not be fewer than currently exist, along with spaces for each new residential unit.  Dilley and other merchants present would clearly be hurt by having a downtown with inadequate parking and would like to make sure that issue is addressed in the new development.

Those present were encouraged to talk to their neighbors and spread the word about this issue.

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