A WATCHUNG COMMUNICATIONS, INC. PUBLICATION The Westfield Leader and THE TIMES of Scotch Plains – Fanwood Thursday, April 15, 1999 Page B7
CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
New Jerseyans Must Demand Real Tax Reforms Not Rebates from the State
By MARYANNE S. CONNELLY
Maryanne S. Connelly is serving her fourth and last year as Fanwood Mayor. She was elected in 1995 after serving nine years on the at-large Borough Council. She ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1998.
Zoning Ordinance Key To Fanwood's Future; Public Involvement Crucial
By JOEL WHITAKER
Joel Whitaker was elected to a three-year term on the atlarge Fanwood Borough Council in 1997.
Of all the ordinances that a municipality enacts, perhaps none is more important than the zoning ordinance.That's because the zoning ordinance determines what can built and where. It determines what sort of businesses can be in a town, howtheyadvertise, andevenhowmany employees they may have.
Fanwood this year will adopt a new zoning ordinance. It has been in the works for at least two years, and my colleague, Councilwoman Karen Schurtz, did an absolutely terrific job in shepherding it through the draft stage.
Because the zoning ordinance is like none other — for one thing, it's huge, filling a 1-1/2 inch looseleaf binder in draft form — and because of its importance to the future of our community, it is essential that as the Borough Council considers the ordinance we must insure that it is carefully reviewed, that testimony on controversial issues is taken, and that the entire process is open to the public.
There are a number of critical issues which must be decided by the council in adopting this ordinance. They include:
Since the Planning Board hears appeals from decisions of the Zoning Officer, should the Zoning Officer be a member of the Planning Board?
Since new residential construction could pump more children into already overcrowded schools, should we require that a member of the Board of Education also be a member of the Planning Board?
Shouldthe CouncilfollowthePlanning Board's recommendation and abolish the Light Industrial Zone, replacing it with commercial zoning?
The Terrill Road Affordable Housing Zone provides for apartments. Should any other place in Fanwood be zoned for apartments?
Why should the Borough require Belgian block curbing in parking lots, loading areas and driveways for businesses and multi-family housing?
Should our Zoning Ordinance be written in such a way as to effectively zone out Silver Hanger Cleaners, Fanwood Tire & Auto, Frank's Auto Repair or Dave's Shell? All these businesses presently exist, and would be "grandfathered in," but would find any changes extremely difficult.
Is there any reason why the Borough should prohibit internally illuminated signs on a business? Our present ordinance prohibits them, but
some businesses such as Family Investors, South Street Cafe and Quick Chek won approval. But when Irma's Bag and United National Bank sought approvalfrom thePlanningBoard,they were denied. This unequal treatment lends the appearance of favoritism.
The Borough's professional planning consultant is currently reviewing the draft zoning ordinance. Once he has made his comments and recommendations, I intend to divide it into three separate ordinances — one dealing with administrative matters, one dealing with actual zoning issues, and one dealing with related issues such as signs.
Because of the importance of this ordinance to the future of Fanwood, I intend to have public hearings, where witnesses will come and testify as to the pros and cons of the above issues and several others.
I would like this to be done at the Council's regular public meeting, and to be televised on TV-35.
I believe it is especially important that this be done openly and in public. Recent events have led some residents to wonder what, if anything, the Borough or its officials have to hide.
After the Courier-News disclosed their reporter was denied the bills list — a simple list of how much was paid to whom and for what — I received several calls from residents.
We are all aware of the brouhaha that developed in the wake of the Planning Board's initial handling of the apartment house matter, which was viewed by many as an attempt to deny the public a voice.
It is much more convenient for governmentofficialsto keepthepublicout of the process and to do business behind closed doors. But those of us in government — elected officials and employees alike — should always remember that it's not our government, it's the people's government.
Thecitizens ofFanwoodshouldhave unfetteredaccess toourpublicrecords, and to our public meetings. As the Council addresses the zoning ordinance question, residents can be sure that I will fight vigorously for two things: (1) that proper legislative hearings be held on all controversial or disputedissues,and (2)thatthesehearings be conducted on TV-35 so that confidence in the integrity of our processes in Fanwood may be restored.
Fanwood Council Needs To Take Action to Meet
Downtown Objectives By LOUIS C. JUNG
Louis C. Jung is serving his sixth year on the at-large, Fanwood Borough Council. He was elected to three-year terms in 1993 and 1996.
Two recent items emphasized how important the Downtown area is to Fanwood citizens. The first was the survey completed by Distributive Education Cooperative Association (DECA) from Scotch PlainsFanwood High School.
The second was the outpouring of opposition by a significant number of
Fanwood residentsagainstaproposed apartment complex at the former Dean Oil site.
The DECA study (to which 500 Fanwood people responded) showed that Fanwood residents would shop downtown even more if there were additional stores available.
The MayorandCouncilestablished a new Fanwood Downtown Revitalization Committee (FDRC) this past
Improved Library Services, Parks Restorations Some Of Fanwood Accomplishments
By STUART S. KLINE
Stuart S. Kline is serving his third year on the at-large Fanwood Borough Council. He was elected to three-year term in 1996.
Whenmywife Susan and I moved to Fanwood almost 10 years ago, we were very impressed by the small town atmosphere and community spirit. At that time, however, I had no idea I would be serving on the Borough Council some seven years later.
First, I would like to thank my fellow residents for the trust they have bestowed upon me. Secondly, I would like to share some thoughts on some areas in which I have personally been involved.
For the past few months, I have had the privilege of serving as the Council Liaison to the Fanwood Memorial Library Board of Trustees. The Library has aggressively moved forward in its campaign to automate operations.
Last year, the library joined the Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium to provide online library servicesas wellasnetworkedInternet access. In fact, the library has a total of seven computers available to the public for Internet access.
The library staff has also started to bar-code its collection (now 25 per
cent complete) and hopes to be automated by the fall. As a Fanwood resident, and an active library patron, I am very pleased at these exciting new developments.
I havealsoservedas amemberofthe "Pocket Park"Committee.Thisproject has certainly been quite controversial, and there has been quite a bit of disagreement. In fact, I have expressed my opinion on a number of occasions regarding the decision process.
The fact is that the Pocket Park money (a Union County grant) could be used for renovation of existing parks as well as construction of new parks. I believe that parks are somewhat like money; you can never have too much, especially in Fanwood.
I also believe that we should hold the Watson Road parcel, because we cannot forsee what land the borough will need 20 or 30 years in the future.
As a member of the Pocket Park committee, I have steadfastly maintained that we should not spend one penny more than the grant money received. As a result, the committee will soon present to council a pocket park proposal that is at or below the grant money received.
From the Desk of the Fanwood Mayor
CONTINUED ON PAGE B-8
Let's demand real tax reform! As Mayor and CouncilwomanI have been involved for 13 years in the development of the municipal budgets.
Each year the department heads have been asked to come in with a flat operating budget. Each year we ask for more fund-raising by boards and commissions to pay for new equipment, suppliesorexpandedprograms.
We continue to identify new sources of revenues from grants and wise investments we shareemployees borrow equipment and keep tightening our belts. We scrimp and save to the point where live have cut out the fat and now are starting to cut into the muscle.
Why? To keep our taxes down while we maintain the level of services. Okay. That sounds good. Fiscally responsible government. Then why is there a problem? Why are seniors anxiously looking for help so they don't have to sell their homes and move? Why are young people working several jobs to make ends meet? Why are fixed income families facing financial difficulties?
In New Jersey the answer is property taxes. There are three parts to our tax bills: municipal, county and school. A recent study shows that in New Jersey districts' school funding relies on property taxes for 60 to 90 percent of its budgets. In our district, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood budget resolves 90 percent of its funding from property taxes. This is outrageous!
Property taxeswereneverintended toprovidethis leveloffunding.Good schools and the best teachers are essential but we cannot continue to rely upon property taxes.
Let's talk about federal taxes for a moment. New Jersey is considered a very wealthy state: the per capita incomeishigh relativetootherstates. Because of this wealth, New Jersey residents send more money to Washington, DC than 48 other states.
Yes, we are No. 2 in the amount of federal taxes we pay but we are No. 49 in getting money back for federally-funded programs like transportation, law income loans, community block grants and education.
Only one state gets less money back from Washington than the people of New Jersey. For every $1 we send, we get 69 cents back! There is something wrong.
The property-tax rebate is just another gimmick that sounds good on the surface but it does not provide
permanent tax reform. I questionwhetherour state budget can handle a $1 billion payout for five years when it will have debt repayments for loans on open space preservation, transportation, and person bond repayments.
This rebate plan does not address the education budget dilemma. The state has to step up to its obligation.
We must work to get more than 69 cents for every dollar we send to Washington. Keep this 31 cents in the state and use it to reduce the property taxes. As elected officials we have an obligation to represent the needs of our constituents. By the way, Fanwood residents will have no tax increase at the municipal level for the third time in six years. We are trying to do our part.
"That sounds good. Fiscally responsible government. Then why
is there a problem?"
– Mayor Connelly
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