MILLBURN, NJ — Decisions made by the Township Committee today will affect us well into the future. That’s why transparency is so important to us. The recent rush to create a new & expanded Special Improvement District (SID) raises serious transparency and accountability questions. Was there a hidden agenda?
In 2008, a plan was proposed to transform Millburn/ Short Hills with up to 50,000 square feet of new retail space, three parking structures and densely packed apartments downtown. It was rejected by that Township Committee.
We have concerns about the direction of development in town after the present Township Committee voting majority and their allies, including the Democratic Candidates for Township Committee, did not address vocal opposition pertaining to the new SID. Did the rush to approve this SID signal their intention to apply for Transit Village designation in Millburn and Short Hills?
What is a Transit Village? It is a compact, mid-rise, mixed-use neighborhood located within a half mile radius around a transit station.
Why do we think the current Township Committee voting majority and their allies are considering a Transit Village? We see five data points which line-up with a Transit Village initiative.
- First: A town must have a functioning SID to be designated a Transit Village. At breakneck speed, under cover of COVID, and over the objections of the business community, the Township Committee just approved a new & expanded SID. We believe that major changes, like a SID, must be based on a feasibility study and should not be pursued without broad support. Why the rush to approve the SID?
- Second: The new SID Board of Trustees is hand-picked by and accountable to the Township Committee, not independently selected by the business community which it will tax. This government overreach ensures that the SID functions as an extension of Township Committee authority. Why does this TC insist on such complete control?
- Third: Having two transit hubs in an application is more advantageous for approval. Why does the expanded SID include the Short Hills village area when the focus of the new SID board members seems to be fixed on downtown Millburn?
- Fourth: Towns which are viewed as bicycle friendly score better on their Transit Village application. While we are avid bikers and think the Tour de Millburn is an excellent idea in isolation, we wonder - does the timing of the first annual Tour de Millburn fit well into an application?
- Fifth: To qualify as a Transit Village, a town must verify via a visioning exercise that it is open to growth. A presentation to hire a planning firm for just such a visioning exercise is scheduled for the next Township Committee meeting on September 1st. Why the need to conduct this exercise now?
Nicolas Volpicelli and Sujoy Menon have strong concerns about a Transit Village designation for Millburn/Short Hills for two important reasons. First, COVID-inspired work from home will impact demand for new office space in mixed-use SID developments. Second, hundreds of new apartments generated in a Transit Village will impact our schools, increase traffic, and stretch our public services thin, likely resulting in costly tax increases. While Millburn’s overall population has not changed greatly over the past thirty years, our school-aged population has nearly doubled in that time. Hundreds of new apartments may well lead the school-aged population to exceed the capacity of our schools.
We support affordable housing and have already outlined ways that Millburn/Short Hills can meet our affordable housing obligations without an influx of new buildings.
Now is the time to secure our quality of life. We commit to a transparent partnership between local government, our fellow residents and our local businesses with no hidden agenda, and we ask for your vote this Fall.
Nicolas Volpicelli and Dr. Sujoy Menon are the Republican candidates for Millburn Township Committee.
Nic is an alumni of the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering and an MBA. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and a Fellow at Lead New Jersey. Nic attained the partnership of the global strategy consulting firm Booz & Company. He lives in the Glenwood section of Millburn Township with his wife, Christa and three children.
Nic is also a parishioner at St. Rose of Lima, active with the Cub & BSA Scouts and is the President of the Racquets Club of Short Hills.
Dr. Sujoy Menon is an alumni of Rutgers University with a B.S. in Computer Science and Biochemistry. He received his MD from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ as well as an MBA from Cornell University. Dr. Menon is the Chief of Interventional Radiologist at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Sujoy lives in the Deerfield section of Millburn Township with his wife, Aditi and two children.