SCOTCH PLAINS — The township council on Tuesday passed several ordinances pertaining to downtown redevelopment, which will likely dominate the governing body’s agenda in the new year.
The council gave its approval to an ordinance overhauling parking regulations in the downtown. The ordinance affects off-street requirements in the downtown zones slated for redevelopment — an area encompassing Park Avenue from Route 22 southward to the East Second Street/Westfield Avenue intersection as well as the segments of East Second Street, Bartle Avenue, Grand Street and Forest Road that are closest to the central business district. The aim of the ordinance revisions is to promote the downtown as a place to open a business and to reduce the parking burden for new businesses along with lessening the number of parking variances being sought.
The new parking requirements for new business and professional offices, retail stores, restaurants and other types of businesses located in the B-1 and B-2 zones in the downtown will be reduced to one parking space per 400 square feet of business space. Existing requirements call for one space for every 200 square feet of space or, in the case of restaurants, one space for every three seats. The 371 public parking spaces currently available in the municipal lots next to the municipal building, in front of the library and behind the stores along Park Avenue will not be affected by this ordinance change. The redevelopment plan for the downtown public properties calls for those 371 spaces to be retained but reconstructed and redistributed throughout the central business district in parking structures or wrapped into new buildings. Any new developments that include residential apartments or new commercial space will be required to include on-site parking for residents and patrons.
The council also adopted an ordinance authorizing a redevelopment plan for a 30-unit apartment building to be built on land owned by the Scotch Plains Baptist Church at the corner of Grand Street and Forest Road.
Township redevelopment officials are in the process of interviewing prospective redevelopers for the public properties in the downtown, Mayor Joshua Losardo said this week. Further information will be made public in the new year.
Police Chief Ted Conley announced that his department had received its third straight accreditation from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. Accreditation is done every three years and is a method of assisting law enforcement agencies to calculate and improve their overall performance. Accreditation Program Director Harry Delgado spoke at the council’s meeting and said that 54 percent of law enforcement agencies in New Jersey have achieved accreditation status, and that only 19 percent — including Scotch Plains — have achieved it three times. Lieutenant David Smith, who served as the department’s point man during the most recent process, said there were 112 different standards that the police department had to meet.
Mayor Losardo, in response to a complaint from a resident about the council’s 6 p.m. start time for its meetings, said that the governing body will push its 2023 meeting start time to 7 p.m., something he said will hopefully lead more residents to attend and take part.
Township Manager Al Mirabella told the council that bids were recently requested for bulky-waste collection but that no bids had been submitted. In September, Mr. Mirabella said bids would be sought to see if the permit-based program could be reinstituted. This week, he said another attempt at soliciting bids would be done in late winter or early spring.
A firearms-related ordinance that was set for introduction this week was withdrawn due to questions from a resident, the mayor said. The language of the ordinance calls for banning the carrying of firearms within any building owned by the township or the board of education unless the person carrying the firearm is a law enforcement officer. The ban also would apply to daycare facilities and long-term-care facilities. Discharging a firearm in the township would be prohibited unless done at a licensed range. The mayor did not provide details of the resident’s concerns but said he would consult with the township attorney about the ordinance.