MANAHAWKIN, NJ – At yesterday’s Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce meeting, Barnegat Mayor John Novak shared some brief remarks. He joined four other local mayors in providing their communities’ downtown driven updates.
“Barnegat has a nickname that everyone hears in bars and coffee shops,” he began. “We call it “Bar-ne-great.”
Novak’s opening set the tone for the balance of his statement as audience members laughed. Using a twist on the Township’s less flattering moniker, the Barnegat mayor grabbed attention. Mayors who spoke after Novak even referenced some of his remarks.
Before he was elected to the Township Committee seven years ago, Novak played a role in bringing a new rateable to Barnegat. An attorney, the now Barnegat mayor, represented Cardinale Enterprises, LLC as the project applicant. They were the originators of the plan now known as Barnegat 67, which has since changed developers.
The mixed-use concept was new to Barnegat, and possibly to Ocean County. Residential apartments sit on top of commercial businesses, conveniently located right off the Garden State Parkway. As a result, tenants don’t need to travel at all for some necessities.
According to Novak, some worry that shopping centers generate too much traffic. However, he said it’s quite the contrary. “They are largely traffic relievers,” he shared. “When people look for the essentials, they prefer them closest to home.”
Meanwhile, an alphabet soup of government bureaucracies often holds off progress when it comes to moving forward. As just one example, the Barnegat mayor stated, “Anyone on the shore here knows that you have CAFRA (Coastal Area Facility Review Act) on one side, and Pinelands, on the other.”
As both a mayor and land use attorney, Novak has experienced how time delays impact development. Since the approvals need to come from outside agencies, local authorities lose control. With holdups as long as three or four years, business owners risk losing necessary financing.
“The big black boot of government is on small business,” opined Novak. “Small business needs to breathe. It needs to do what it does best, which is business.”
Barnegat 67 has been the Township’s largest project, with the second phase nearly complete. Novak said that it is almost filled to capacity. “Business wants to be where people are, and people want to be where businesses are,” he concluded.