MILLBURN, NJ - Our opponents for Township Committee published a rambling explanation of the only position they have taken in this local election, supporting the new Special Improvement District (SID). Therefore, we would like to reiterate why we opposed the new SID as recently passed.
When over thirty members of the local business community oppose a new initiative meant to help them, one would think that the Township Committee (TC) would pause to consider why the business community is opposed. Instead, the Township Committee voting majority pushed ahead at breakneck speed to implement the SID over the objections of over 30 members of the business community and without the usual Feasibility Study which is conducted to demonstrate support for a new SID.
So, what is wrong with the new SID? First, the board governing the SID has been hand-chosen by only two members of the current Township Committee. By contrast, the previous Millburn SID allowed the business community to pick their own representatives as does the current SID in Livingston. The SID in Summit selects its board via direct elections. In fact, we have yet to find a SID completely governed by direct TC appointments, perhaps because other towns want to avoid even the appearance of nepotism or favoritism.
Second, the area covered by the new SID was massively expanded from the old DMDA, but all the representatives for the SID board and all the conversation remain focused only on Downtown Millburn. Many of the business community members in the expanded zone were not contacted about the new SID prior to the first reading of the ordinance. It is not right to tax the expanded zones and spend that money only on Downtown.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the new SID is not capable of fixing many of the underlying causes of store-front vacancies in town, which were cited as justification for creating a new SID. The SID can’t address lack of parking, costs (taxes, parking fees, etc.), physical condition of buildings, restrictive zoning, or other business issues facing prospective new businesses. A SID can be a part of the solution, but it is not a panacea for all ills.
Because the TC voting majority rushed this SID through without a Feasibility Study, the town is now facing yet another lawsuit. The legality of the TC funding the SID is also being challenged, the old DMDA never received funds directly from residents’ taxes. This lawsuit could easily have been avoided if the TC voting majority had listened to input from the business community and slowed down to build consensus correctly.
A Special Improvement District can be an asset for a town when implemented correctly with the right governance and with the support of the business community, the current TC voting majority did not ensure either of these conditions.
As passed, this new SID remains the wrong solution implemented in the wrong way at the wrong time.
For more information about common sense solutions for Millburn Township, please visit nicandsujoyformillburn.com.