CALDWELL, NJ — The findings of a yearlong study regarding the creation of a Special Improvement District (SID) in Caldwell was presented to the Borough Council at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The borough commissioned the study on Dec. 5, 2014, with the Caldwell Steering Committee beginning work on the project in January 2015. The study was designed to determine if it was in the borough’s best interest to create such a district.
Stuart Koperweis of Millennium Strategies, the company working with the committee on the project, presented the study results and recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting. He said that the goal of creating a SID for Caldwell would be to help drive customers to Caldwell’s businesses through a partnership between those businesses and the local government.
“The study recommends the entire area of downtown Caldwell be included,” said Koperweis, who clarified that the area includes businesses and commercial areas. “No single-or two-family residences or condos would be included.”
Koperweis also clarified that apartment complexes of three-or-more units would be included. The district corridor would run the entire length of Bloomfield Avenue as well as some side streets where businesses exist, such as Park, Roseland, Smull and Brookside Avenues. It would be run by a non-profit District Management Corporation (DMC).
Koperweis has helped create districts like this in other towns such as Montclair and Bloomfield. He said the study provides a comprehensive blueprint for economic development areas, visual improvement areas and marketing to help drive people to the district.
There were numerous questions and comments from the council. Responding to a question from Councilman Richard Hauser on how this would be funded, Koperweis replied, “The funding would come from a special assessment to property owners, which would be based on what the DMC budget would be for the year.”
Based on his work in other towns, Koperweis estimated that the average cost of the assessment to property owners along the corridor would be between $800 and $1500 per year. That can change from year to year, as the budget may change, more or less, in a given year.
“Does the assessment cover the whole budget for the plan?” Borough Attorney Greg Mascera asked.
According to Koperweis, it does. He said that the importance of not having borough funding is that the DMC, while working with the borough, would not be influenced by the government because of funding.
Koperweis reassured Mascera and other council members that the DMC would not be a private entity with its own agenda. He said the corporation and one member of the council would be on the committee at all times, so the town would always be aware of plans and ways to cooperate for Caldwell’s benefit. Also, the Council would have to approve the budget each year for the DMC.
“The goal of this is to allow the private sector, the businesses and the property owners, to take destiny in their own hands, working hand-in-hand with the governing body,” said Koperweis.
Council President Pat Capozzoli remarked that his take on the report showed that it “takes out of the Council’s hands and puts it more into the businesses hands [the ability] to do the things they want,” which includes creating an inventory of open spaces, bringing in new businesses and beautifying the corridor.
“[The Steering Committee] wants, in essence, to create a small management company,” said Capozzoli, to which Koperweis agreed.
“I attended 6-8 meetings of the Steering Committee and Stuart has been doing a great job,” said Councilman Thomas O’Donnell.
Mayor Ann Dassing said she felt that the program “addresses community needs and future trends in retail,” similar to programs she has seen in other towns, such as West Orange.
The Mayor and Borough Council now have to review the findings of the study. The next step after that would be to file an ordinance creating the SID during a public meeting, open for public comment. No timeline was set for that to occur at this time.