The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.
I first want to congratulate Nick Calello and David Went for their promotions to patrol officers in the Westfield Police Department. I’d also like to welcome and congratulate new Patrol Officer Fortunato Riga, who joins the police department this week upon his graduation from the Police Academy.
I’d also like to congratulate the “Take Care of Mother Nature” artwork winners from McKinley Elementary who I got to meet last weekend when their work was put up for display in the downtown window of 109 E. Broad St. I was so inspired by their suggestions to help Mother Nature that they have been invited to attend the next Green Team meeting in Town Hall to present their ideas to the group.
I’d like to thank Tamaques Elementary Principal Mr. Deulks for inviting me to school this morning to meet with students who shared with me what they learned from their school’s Kindness Challenge. Not surprisingly, these kids learned that kindness is contagious and have committed to keeping kindness in our community all year long. I was also fortunate to learn a few jokes and join a second grade class in their Go Noodle dancing before math.
Two weeks ago, I co-chaired a meeting with Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr and Bound Brook Mayor Bob Fazen as we kicked off a new Mayor’s Coalition to advocate for peak one-seat rides along the Raritan Valley Line. We had mayors and representatives from over 25 towns along the Raritan Valley Line in attendance, and will begin aggressively lobbying for our fair share of dual locomotive trains to enable peak one seat rides. We are currently planning an RVL Mayor’s Day in Trenton, and working to ensure that Governor Murphy’s designee to lead the Department of Transportation will be asked about peak one-seat rides during her confirmation hearing. More to come on this critical initiative for Westfield.
Last week I led a meeting, along with Liz Jeffery (my volunteer economic development coordinator) and Sherry Cronin (executive director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation), of many of our downtown property owners to discuss ways that the town and property owners can work together to ensure the revitalization of our downtown and the long-term success of our merchants. Topics included short-term parking solutions, streamlining processes to expedite opening a business, streetscape improvements, promotional needs and more. There is a lot of work to be done but our goal is the same: To ensure that Westfield is as business-friendly as possible, and to let everyone know that we are open for business.
I also want to address a recent planning board decision allowing for the subdividing of a property on Fairview Circle. As some of you know, I sit on the planning board and was one of the four that voted against approving the variance which permitted the subdivision. There has been a lot of discussion on social media expressing disappointment in the board’s decision, and I too was disappointed.
It’s important to remember that the planning board must follow legal procedures as outlined in NJ Municipal Land Use law, and local ordinances that are reflected in the Master Plan. To that end, the planning board will be convening a four-person subcommittee of current board members that will review current ordinances to see if they can be tweaked to reflect the current climate. Additionally, we will begin the new community driven Master Plan process in the coming months, which will provide an opportunity to revisit our land Uuse ordinances to ensure they are reflective of the new plan.
And lastly, tonight the council will be going through the first reading of the ordinances that will allow for additional zoning in designated areas as the final phase of compliance with our court ordered affordable housing settlement. After tonight, the zoning ordinances will be sent to the planning board for review and public comment at a hearing on March 5. The planning board will then make their recommendations to the council in advance of a final vote. This settlement has been years in the making and once these ordinances are adopted they will put Westfield in control of its own future development. We will be sending out more detailed information to the public in the next week or so, including a detailed FAQ sheet, and will welcome public comments.