SOMERVILLE, NJ - The Regional Center Partnership has adopted the 2018 “Somerset County Regional Center Strategic Plan,” a document that outlines the cooperative agenda for Somerville, Bridgewater and Raritane for the next five years.
The Strategic Plan defines and prioritizes quality-of-life issues, obstacles, and projects that are multi-municipal in nature and will facilitate the advancement of the goals and objectives for the SCRC and further the mission of creating “vibrant connections” throughout Somerset County.
“The Strategic Plan offers the Regional Center Partnership a comprehensive look at the initiatives to be addressed to continue the successes and accomplishments the organization has attained of its first two decade," said Regional Center Chairman Troy Fischer “By prioritizing key initiatives, leadership of the Partnership and the three communities will continue to enhance the quality of life and appeal of the Regional Center,” he added.
The 2018 Plan updates the 2006 version and reflects changes that have occurred affecting the initiatives outlined at that time. Among the elements to be addressed are the Somerset County Investment Framework, the Somerset County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Supporting Priority Growth in Somerset County, the attainment of SCRC Plan Endorsement from the State Planning Commission, and the results of a Regional Center Visioning Session convened in September of 2015.
The new Plan will inform and guide the RCP when focusing resources to implement priority projects over the next five years. The Plan is also designed to be used by the three municipalities to help advance their individual master plan goals.
The Strategic Plan consists of three main components: a concise Vision statement for the Regional Center, a description of the four themes that characterize the entire Background Report, and a list of selected top priorities for the Regional Center for possible implementation in the next five years.
The four themes are: Health & Wellness; Resiliency; Embracing the Raritan River; and Job Growth & Private Sector Investment.
Health & Wellness – Research indicates that an increasing number of Americans suffer from obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions that are a result of life style. Addressing the relationship between public health and urban planning, the Strategic Plan presents methods of promoting an active lifestyle including increasing pedestrian and bicycle safety; increasing access to the Raritan River Greenway; and connecting with other agencies including recreation departments, the county Park Commission, Healthier Somerset, and RWJ Barnabas Health to encourage healthier lifestyles.
Priorities include: Support RWJBarnabas Health’s Community Needs Assessment and Implementation Plans; Support Healthier Somerset’s Community Health Improvement Plan; Explore bike sharing programs; Create public plazas and pop-up parks; Support farm markets and farm-to-table options; Continue implementation of Complete Streets programs;
Resiliency – The goal is to enhance municipal and county coordination in pre-disaster preparedness and post-disaster response. By encouraging business continuity planning and developing contingency plans for major incidents, the Regional Center will be more prepared and capable of recovering from a disaster, sending the message to business leaders that the Regional Center is a prime location for investment.
Priorities include: Support County OEM efforts to develop disaster response and recovery planning; Update the County Hazardous Mitigation Plan; Provide resources to local business to facilitate continuity planning; Develop a list of “green” infrastructure strategies.
Embracing the Raritan River – The Raritan River and the Raritan River Greenway are the natural connections linking the three Regional Center communities, offering numerous quality-of-life amenities. The Greenway affords tremendous opportunity to embrace health and wellness, through recreational biking, walking, fishing, use of watercraft, and general enjoyment of the beauty of the Raritan River.
Priorities include: Update the Regional Center Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Greenways System Connection Plan; Support completion of the Greenway; Work with Rutgers University Sustainable Raritan River Initiative to promote public access to the river; Support coordinating park and recreation opportunities; Encourage green infrastructure planning.
Job Growth & Private Sector Investment – The Plan identifies a number of “focus areas” that relate to the Regional Center’s economic vitality. Over the next five years the Regional Center should address; Redevelopment areas, economic development, and community design; Train station areas; Neighborhoods and housing; Circulation; Recreation, open space, and greenways; and Shared services, community facilities, and historical and cultural resources.
Priorities include: Support recommendations of the CEDS; Identify opportunities for seating for downtown restaurants; Support creative placemaking; Support efforts to develop “last mile” connections; Support efforts to accommodate bicycle commuting to train stations;
The Somerset County Regional Center is the strategic center of the County consisting of 12.6 square miles encompassing Raritan Borough, Somerville Borough, and a portion of Bridgewater Township. The Center is bisected by U.S. Route 206, U.S. Route 202, U.S. Route 22, NJ State Route 28, and I-287 with public transit options and serves as the focal point of County government and the regional economy.
The Regional Center designation:
• encourages achievement of policy objectives in growth areas;
• enables development and redevelopment by reclaiming of brownfields;
• makes available priority funding for economic and community programs that provide for
assistance with redevelopment in existing downtown business districts, new infill
development opportunities, and residential and non-residential development along major
highway and mass transit corridors;
• will foster establishment of more effective mass transportation linkages and may provide priority funding for key intersection and corridor improvements and improved pedestrian
• support for linear open space concepts, for the planning and design of new and existing active recreation facilities, for passive open space acquisitions, and for new and existing historic preservation and revitalization programs.