Berkeley Heights is in the process of approving several major redevelopment projects. Between agreements with developers to redevelop properties at Kings (New York Mart), Hamilton Avenue (Little FlowerChurch), Berkeley Cinema and the Connell Center, we will see hundreds of new apartment units built in town over the next few years. These projects are, to some degree, forced upon us by our new, legal requirement to build new affordable housing units.
Developers stand to make considerable profit off of these projects, but the overall benefit to our community is limited. If we’re going to approve these agreements, we ought to do everything we can to maximize the benefit to our town – and as of right now, we’re not.To change that, we’re proposing developers pay a Community Impact Fee so that our community benefits in additional ways from this development. Here’s how it would work:
To enable developers to make a profit off these projects, the Mayor and current Township Council are approving temporary tax breaks for them, called PILOT agreements (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes). If elected to the Council, we would insist that as part of any PILOT agreement, the developer agree to pay what is called a Community Impact Fee. This has been done by other New Jersey towns as a means to ensure the developers give something back to the communities being affected by their projects.
By charging a reasonable rate of $300/unit built, we can generate nearly $200,000 a year in new revenue during the life of the PILOT agreement– none of it from raising taxes or cutting critical services! We propose to use the Community Impact Fee to fully restore and upgrade our sports and recreational fields. Berkeley Heights families have known for years that our sports fields are in very poor shape compared to neighboring towns where our kids compete – theirs are better maintained and have much better amenities, despite the hard work of our Recreation Department and PAL volunteers.
By creating the Community Impact Fee, we will ensure Berkeley Heights has playing fields worthy of our great town. When we say we’re fighting for Change We Can Agree On, this is precisely the kind of new perspective we would bring to the Township Council.
As taxpayers, we’ve invested a great deal to make our community a great place for our families. Isn’t it time our Township Council listened to and invested in our priorities? If you want to improve our playing fields and parks – for our kids, our quality of life, and our future – then we ask for your vote on Tuesday, November 7th. Vote Poage & Medeiros, Column A for Change We Can Agree On!
Message from Susan & Alvaro: Thank you to Berkeley Heights Republican leader and Council candidate John Leo for putting town before party and supporting us! We need to bring our community together and make sure all voices are heard, and that’s why Republicans like John are for #ChangeWeCanAgreeOn!
This election year, we face real challenges that we need to overcome: better long-term planning, upgrading infrastructure such as our roads, paths and sports fields, building a more sustainable downtown that keeps private businesses strong and supportive of the community, and more. To meet these challenges requires leadership that respects the views of all residents and is committed to greater inclusion and transparency. As residents it is our right and responsibility to maintain an awareness of the decisions our town government makes while also making the personal effort to get involved.
There absolutely is an “agreeable center” if the right people create the context to make this possible. Successful township governments are inviting and communicative. Among our neighboring townships we can find YouTube videos of mayors giving periodic resident briefings or councils providing budget presentations on which residents can submit to Q&A sessions. A quick comparison summarizes my first political canvassing experience. From witnessing the local government process in town hall meetings and hearing what a resident has to say, the answers lay with our people. They are intelligent and willing to provide input but when our council actively worked to remove referendum and provide few avenues for input it is demoralizing to the community.
The driving concern is with an all too common attitude against public opinion and dissenting views. Like the Mayor and Council, I am a Republican; as a Republican, I believe a major conservative value is to trust the people to make the right decisions. Echoing a national problem, skeptical viewpoints, sometimes in the minority are suppressed or ignored when there is in fact merit in those positions. I will stand by any leadership that provides an opportunity for discussion before decisions are made so that public fallout or resentment does not follow.
These are not Democratic or Republican challenges, they are our challenges. It was out of a desire to do my part to help us overcome these challenges that I ran for Township Council earlier this year. I still believe that sincere, accountable leadership must find our collective voice as a community and bring us together to make needed changes. The current governing body has fallen short in creating that needed unity. Despite having six years of full control they have not taken the right steps in many areas where our town needed action. Municipal improvements have not been handled or explained well while our township debt more than doubles. Meanwhile, other important priorities have been neglected or met with half-measures.
Since the primary, I have listened to the candidates and their respective visions for the kind of change we need. Change is needed if we are going to move our town in a better direction: change that requires all of us to have a voice in the future of our town, and leaders that recognize the importance of this. Having spoken with Susan Poage and Alvaro Medeiros, I firmly believe they are the right candidates to bring about this change. That is why I am endorsing their candidacy for Township Council, and am urging all Independents and open-minded Republicans to choose people over Party by voting for them on November 7.
I am confident that Susan and Alvaro will ask the tough questions, work to give every resident a voice, and promote common-sense proposals to overcome the challenges we face. Their backgrounds as a beloved local teacher and a corporate executive, respectively, make them an excellent team to provide diverse leadership in our town. Their desire to stand up now and run for the Township Council, as Democrats eager to work with Republicans and Independents to make change happen, proves they want to move our town forward in a positive, forward-looking direction. United. Not divided.
I do not agree with Susan and Alvaro in some aspects, party affiliation included. To their credit, however, they are approaching the challenges we face from the position of promoting common sense values: fixing our roads efficiently, questioning borrowing before engaging debt, forming a special taskforce to develop practical ideas to improve our downtown and establish reasonable, long-term planning, actively working with county and state leaders to bring back more of our tax dollars, and more. Susan and Alvaro’s campaign is strong evidence of the desire to directly engage with residents on all available mediums, specifically public platforms. Though it is difficult decision, their presence on the council satisfies my conservative values.
We need leaders with the humility to point to other towns who have moved in the right direction and emulate their progress. We need leaders who will evaluate the benefits and risks of major decisions as individuals, not simply to go along with a group, while welcoming the views of residents to bring in their own, valuable expertise and opinions. If we are going to have a successful future, someone needs to ask tough questions or else we may suffer unforeseen consequences. Susan and Alvaro possess the necessary perspective and qualities that can make this possible.
Please join me in voting for the best choices in this general election, Susan Poage and Alvaro Medeiros, on November 7. With our help they will begin moving us towards the kind of unity, transparency and accountability we need in local government. I encourage all residents to visit their website, http://www.changewecanagreeon.com to learn more about them and their platform of Change We Can Agree On.
The Berkeley Heights Education Foundation (BHEF) recently announced that Susan Poage, council for Berkeley Heights Township Council, was among the winners of this year’s The Marsha Miller award.
The award, which is given to a team of teachers at MaryKay McMillin Early Childhood Center in Berkeley Heights, is given each year to the grant that exemplified outstanding innovation. This year the BHEF chose the Imagination Playground for this honor. This grant was the largest grant BHEF has ever awarded. Susan conceived and wrote the grant and then encouraged a kindergarten teacher, a special education teacher, the physical education teacher and her principal, Anne Corley, to create the team to file the application.
“I was so honored to receive the Marsha Miller Award for Innovative Grants from the Berkeley Heights Education Foundation,” said Susan. “The grant for the Imagination Playground was a long shot because it was must more costly than the BHEF usually awards, but you have to be in it to win it! These are the same materials one would find at Liberty Science Center. It is amazing to watch the children interact with these materials in our very own gym.
This is the second time Susan has won the Marsha Miller Award from the BHEF. Her grant of the MaryKay McMillin Post Office program was also a winner a few years ago.
One of the most important reasons we are running for Township Council is that we need to do a much better job of informing and engaging residents on what is going on in our town. We believe it is our job to go out into the community and meet with residents, informing them and listening to what they have to say; not for you to come to us.
As we’ve gone door-to-door across town in recent months, we’ve found that most residents have heard little or nothing about most of the major actions being taken by the Mayor and Council, including:
Making sure residents understand the phasing of the development and what municipal services could be impacted, such as the library downsizing.
Communicating major development projects to the entire town when they appear before our planning board, such as the new 7-story apartment complex will be built at the Connell Center.
Repaving of our roads is a major complaint; however, the current plan will take 15 years to implement.
Whether or not we agree or disagree with these actions is not the issue; what matters is that town residents deserve to know about them.
We are committed to building on the progress finally being made and doing much more beyond it, including:
Fully embracing social media to engage residents and ask for their input, before taking action on important issues.
Creating an e-newsletter.
Saving money from a print newsletter by having the “Mayor’s Roundtable” done for free.
Holding occasional weekend meetings, not just on the Municipal Complex, in order to attract more residents at a more convenient time for them.
Ensure we have a township website worthy of the 2010s, which means it must be mobile friendly and enable residents to access information more easily.
You deserve a voice in the future of our town. That’s Change We Can Agree On and it’s why we ask for your vote! Please join Democrats, Republicans and Independents in voting for Poage & Medeiros, Column A on November 7th!
We recently met with our daily hometown heroes at the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad and then with the Berkeley Heights Fire Department. Many thanks to Joe Plocinski and Jim Hopkins, respectively, for setting these visits up and for their hospitality. The volunteers in both organizations are true heroes devoting long hours of complete service and sacrifice often at risk to their own safety in order to help, save, and rescue our community from misfortune. These are also some of the busiest volunteers around; they both rank among the highest volumes in the county.
The Rescue Squad, led by Howie Meyer, welcomed us to a monthly meeting this week, at which we had an opportunity to hear from members about what concerns them, as well as answer questions about our focus if elected to the town council. Chief among their concerns is the ability to attract volunteers, especially adult volunteers. As can be readily seen in the many signs posted around town, they are actively recruiting and every member of the community should seriously consider joining. We took it as a personal challenge to come up with ideas to help them achieve this goal.
Another concern is pensions: Berkeley Heights and Summit are the only two towns in the county that do not offer any pension. What sort of message does that send to these heroes?
Jim Hopkins, deputy chief and fire inspector, gave us a fact-filled and informative tour of the Fire Department shortly before joining Tower 1 and Engine 4 for realistic training at a house that is set to be demolished. This laser focus on training and practice is what sets this Fire Department apart from – and ahead of – its peers in terms of expertise and ability to serve in a wide variety of situations. Under the leadership of Tony Padovano, the 50-plus, all-volunteer members all are filled with a passion to serve and learn with enthusiasm and dedication. Here’s just one testament to that dedication: One member we spoke with was working and would attend some of the nights training exercise before joining his wife to celebrate their anniversary.
We cannot thank these truly outstanding heroes in our community enough and we should encourage each other and our families to emulate their examples of service. In the very least, we should all be sure to attend their fundraising functions and contribute to their fund drives.
For our part, when elected, Susan and I will will do everything possible to ensure their place of recognition and gratitude by the township leadership, and work toward getting them the necessary funding they need to continue their life-saving work. We commit to seizing every opportunity possible to recognize them as the Hometown Heroes they truly are.
The Rescue Squad always needs volunteers, both medical and auxiliary. If you are interested in joining or would like additional information, please click http://bhvrs.org/?page_id=13
Easily the most frequent complaint I hear as I go door-to-door to introduce myself to Berkeley Heights residents is that we need to do something about the Berkeley Heights roads. This is especially true when anyone lives near the border of New Providence, where good streets clearly meet the bad ones. And it’s even worse when we see so many of the county and state roads being paved to perfection while our streets continue to crumble.
This has been an ongoing problem for many years and there has been little progress to show for it. Meanwhile our current Town Council has reacted pretty meekly by shifting money within the budget to do more paving and patching this year leaving less budget for future repairs.
This is too little TOO LATE! We still have a 15-year waiting list for resident road repairs! We believe this is a major enough pain that it deserves investment.
So what can we do about this problem?
The answer lies in a bond – a road bond. Tax-free bonds are attractive to investors and a well-established method of funding public infrastructure across the U.S.
As of 2015, it would cost $11 million for contractors to repave all the roads in BH, per the Township’s study conducted at that time. About 20% of the roads have been repaved since then, which leaves about $8 million of road repair work remains to be done.
If elected, we would encourage the Town Council to authorize General Obligation to fund the accelerated work needed to completely repave and repair all of our roads by 2025; to minimize the tax impact, we would spread the financing over an eight-year period prioritizing the most disastrous roads.
Based on current and projected interest rates, a single $8M Bond would increase taxes approximately $25 per year on the average household to pay for the bond but spreading the cost over multiple bond issues and a few years we think that we could keep that much lower. For less than the cost of a tank of gas and much less than the cost of pot-hole related auto damage or personal injury, we could get more roads fixed sooner.
Let’s invest wisely and deliver better quality of roads to our deserving townspeople.