WESTFIELD — Westfield residents and developers who are looking to build on, renovate or improve their homes and properties will be paying more in fees to do so going forward, town officials said Tuesday.
According to General Ordinance 2022-06, adopted Tuesday during a regular meeting of the mayor and council, the town’s most recent payment structure was established 14 years ago, in 2008. Since then, the ordinance states, “The Department of Planning and Zoning has researched fees charged by other municipalities in the state of New Jersey, compared those fees to those found in the Westfield Land Use Ordinance and is recommending that both the application fees and escrow deposit requirements contained within it be updated.”
Under the terms of the new directive, two previous segments of the town’s land-use ordinance — subsections 5.02 and 5.03 — will be stricken from official records and replaced with more contemporary regulations.
Section 5.02, entitled “schedule of fees,” outlines various fees and payment requirements that will henceforth be attached to all development applications.
These include but are not limited to a $500 charge for the interpretation of zoning maps and regulations (up from $100); a $500 fee for minor subdivisions (up from $250); an initial $1,000 fee plus $250 per intended lot for preliminary major subdivisions (up from $500 and $100, respectively); and a $250 fee for an informal concept plan review by the planning board (up from $150).
The ordinance also details changes to the town’s existing professional-services agreements (subsection 5.03) and includes certain guarantees to ensure that all future applications will be made in compliance with local regulations.
Two other sections of the town code (subsections 5.04 and 5.05, designated as “Inspection Fees; Required Deposit” and “Performance and Maintenance Guarantees,” respectively), which were last updated in 1998, also have been amended to reflect current economic and financial realities.
“As we discussed at our February 8 meeting when the ordinance was introduced, the fees suggested are based on those that are charged by other municipalities here in New Jersey,” Councilman Mark Parmelee said. “The ordinance also permits the zoning officer to charge her time spent reviewing applications that are before one of our boards so that these costs aren’t the responsibility of all the taxpayers in the town and will instead be paid by the applicant.”
The adoption of 2022-06 coincides with this year’s municipal budget discussions, which publicly kicked off as part of Tuesday night’s regular meeting.
“We have made a lot of good progress and are definitely on track for a strong budget introduction this year,” said Councilwoman and Finance Chair Linda Habgood, speaking during Tuesday night’s agenda-setting session, held in the Town Hall conference room ahead of the regular legislative meeting.
The council plans to officially introduce the 2022 budget during its next regular meeting on Tuesday, March 22.
The majority of Tuesday night’s public-comment section was once again predominantly comprised of those wishing to speak out in opposition to a proposed multi-use redevelopment project at 112 Ferris Place. Residents, many of whom reside in redeveloper James Ward’s residential Westfield project, the Savannah, raised a litany of concerns surrounding the project. Comments ranged, as they have done at previous meetings, from traffic and environmental-impact concerns to safety, the building’s density, existing neighborhood challenges and parking.
Mayor Shelley Brindle explained that redevelopment is, by nature, a complicated process that takes a considerable amount of time and a lot of input from multiple agencies to complete.
“This plan will not go to the planning board for site-plan approval until this governing body first authorizes a redevelopment agreement with the [redeveloper James Ward]. As a condition of that agreement, this council is requiring the redeveloper to provide a historic reuse and protection plan for 112 Ferris Place, and also a traffic-impact study to determine the impact of the project on traffic patterns in the area and to identify potential improvements to traffic infrastructure and pedestrian safety,” Mayor Brindle said. The traffic study, which has already begun at the developer’s expense, will be completed under the supervision of WSP, the same certified consulting firm that prepared the traffic and circulation element of the town’s 2019 Master Plan.
The final presentation will include detailed reports regarding the intersections of Ferris and Prospect, East Broad and Prospect, Clark and North and Clark and Ferris, Mayor Brindle said, noting that these particular intersections “have been problematic for quite some time, regardless of any proposed development.”
“Only when this governing body is satisfied that the project will enhance and not negatively impact the area will the redevelopment be approved,” Mayor Brindle said. “We are not yet at the point of finalizing our redevelopment. The necessary work is underway, but as I have said before, safety remains the absolute top priority for this administration.”
The council also announced Tuesday the return of community events, including the town’s annual Easter Egg Hunt and the Earth Day celebration, that have been either waylaid or reduced for a few years due to volunteer shortages and, of course, Covid-19.
“I’m really thrilled that the egg hunt will be coming back,” Councilman David Contract said. “It’s a great event that I’ve been to many times with my kids, and it’s so good to see things moving in this direction.”
If Tuesday night’s meeting, held in person and without mask mandates, is any indication of things to come, it is likely that this year’s calendar of events will look much more complete than it has in recent years past, Westfield Town Administrator Jim Gildea said.
A full calendar of spring and summer events, both returning and new, is expected to be released within the coming weeks.