MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – The Borough Council held its reorganization meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8 featuring the swearing in ceremonies of Councilman Robert Messler and Councilwoman Rachel Pater for their three year terms. Additionally, the council appointed members to various borough committees and organizations. The officers for the Fire Department and the Rescue Squad were also sworn-in, as was reappointed Municipal Judge Frank Sahaj.

On his annual address Mayor Paul Mirabelli touted Mountainside as “a gem” and paid a special tribute to its many volunteers. He noted that Mountainside residents saw an expansion of municipal services and improvements to our town’s infrastructure in 2018. Meanwhile, real estate values are rising, while property tax increases have been minimal. “Last year’s municipal tax increase on the average assessed house in Mountainside was only $19.00,” he said.

Mirabelli noted that residents continue to “receive the level of services that they expect and deserve” because of the “dedicated borough staff.” The borough is also continuing to participate in multiple shared services that keep our taxes under control, including, the Joint Insurance Fund, Westfield Board of Health, U.C. Server for Info, Flu Clinics, Union County Public Assistance, U.C. First Alert, U.C. Print Shop, U.C. DPW Equipment and truck loan program, Emergency Services Mutual Aid Program. “These cost savings enabled us to better serve residents and boost our quality-of-life with a variety of recreational programs and infrastructure enhancements,” he said.

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Furthermore, Mirabelli elaborated on the recent infrastructure improvements which included paving projects on many borough roads. “We have substantially completed the rehabilitation of sanitary sewer manholes and recently completed efforts to clean, videoscope and make repairs to approximately 22,500 lineal feet of 8-inch and 10-inch diameter sanitary sewer lines,” he said.

The true essence of why Mountainside is such a great community is the volunteers who are “the back bone of our community,” he said. He complemented both the Volunteer Fire Department as well as the Volunteer Rescue Squad. “Through their leadership, both organizations have been able to recruit new members, especially young members, allowing both organizations to respond quickly and effectively when emergencies arise. They continue to spend countless hours in training, preparing, and maintaining equipment to keep Mountainside safe — and we owe them a great deal of gratitude for their service,” he said.

There are multiple other Mountainside volunteer organizations that provide additional programs and services to residents, such as Friends of the Library, Beautiful Mountainside, Girl and Boy Scouts among others, Mirabelli said. He encouraged all who can volunteer to volunteer for these “incredibly important organizations.”

Mirabelli also addressed the affordable housing issue. In 2015 the borough obtained a Court Approved Affordable Housing Plan which calls for a maximum density of 6 units per acre. “This is one of the lowest approved densities in the state. More importantly, because we have a court approved plan, we are immune from any builders remedy lawsuits which have forced many of our neighboring towns to have densities of anywhere from 20 units per acre to 60 units per acre. We are protected from these high densities,” he explained.

Two affordable housing projects have already been approved in the borough. These are 23-unit Echo Ridge development and Alpine Ridge Development which is a 55 and over community.  The 32-unit Barnes Tract development in downtown Mountainside is currently seeking approvals before the Planning Board. ”Once complete, this will be a highly visible and attractive development,” Mirabelli said. Additionally, a 79-unit assisted living facility known as Arbor Terrace has recently opened. Another assisted living facility, Artis Senior Living, has been approved with 79 units of which 10% are affordable units. “We are proud that our low density affordable house plan has maintained the residential single family character of Mountainside and satisfies our Affordable Housing requirements,” he said.

At the last work session the council reviewed a draft of the Borough Traffic Study conducted by the consulting firm N.V.5. which provided several short  and long term suggestions to help traffic flow through town. A revised report will be provided to the borough shortly.

Mirabelli also noted the the Union County Tax Board has ordered a property reevaluation in the borough. The appraisal company will provide a comprehensive public presentation about all aspects of the reevaluation shortly. “Once the date, time, and location are finalized, we’ll make sure everyone knows about it well in advance,” he said.

“We continue to vigorously defend the Borough against the recent lawsuit that has brought Mountainside considerable unwanted attention, and we will utilize all appropriate avenues to resolve this matter,” Mirabelli stated regarding the ongoing lawsuit. He pointed out the council’s trust in its police department under the leadership of Officer-in-Charge Lieutenant Joseph Giannuzzi.

“Mountainside is a “gem”, I am proud to serve our community. As Mayor and Council, this governing body pledges to continue our long-standing record of making decisions about the challenges that face Mountainside in the best interest of our great community,” he concluded.