NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Borough businesses will have a new set of design rules  following the approval Monday of the design standards for the downtown district.

The Borough Council approved the standards after months of discussions with the business community, borough planning officials  and the planning board.

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Councilman Vincent Vyzas said the standards will provide "continunity to the downtown."

The council Monday also agreed to sign a new trash disposal contract with the Union County Municipal Utilities Authority that would reduce the borough's disposal rate by $12 a ton, saving approximately $50,000

Vyzas said it was important to act on the design standards because there are an increasing number of applications before the planning board. For example, there is an application before the planning board for the former McGrath's hardware store on the corner of South Street and Springfield Avenue, he said.

"It would be nice to being some continuity to that corner," Vyzas said.

The owner of that site will be back before the planning board tonight (Tuesday) .

The design standards will regulate the size and location of signs, outdoor seating for restaurants, the installation of awnings, window signs and other features.

Vyzas said the borough was looking to provide business owners and architects and designers hired to conduct renovations with guidelines for the changes. The intent is not to stifle creativity, but to promote good civic design and improve the appearance of the downtown, he said.

Council President Michael Gennaro said that such standards evolve over time,  but the present rules were a  good place to start.

"We should move forward as a start," Vyzas said.

The new trash contract  has some favorable news for the borough, said Kevin Conte, an attorney for the county Municipal Utilities Authority.

The contract calls for the borough to pay $12 less a ton to dispose of the borough's municipal waste at the COVENTA incinerator, he said. COVENTA has a contract with Union County to operate the trash-to-energy facility.

The borough will still have a minimum trash limit of 4,500 tons per year, he said,  but Union County is responsible for providing COVENTA with enough municipal waste to cover any shortfall.

Conte said many towns fall below their allotment, but since many others  exceed their alloted tonnage and send more trash to the facility,  no town that is short gets hit with higher fees because they didn't send enough trash  to the facility.

Council James Cucco said he wanted to be clear on that part of the contract because New Providence has been shipping less and less trash a year to the county for several years because  of increased recycling efforts.

Cucco said the borough's annual trash tonnage has dropped from 4,100 tons to less than 3,900 tons in a few years.

Conte said that no town has been hit with higher per-ton fees because they missed their minimum tonnage requirement in the 13 years he has been representing the municipal utilities authority.

Gennaro said since the new trash agreement is retroactive to January, and the borough should receive  a windfall from the county, the funds should  be placed in reserve because they are not included in the current municipal budget.