By REBECCA MEHORTER
Specially Written for The Leader/Times
WESTFIELD — The Westfield Town Council hosted its annual reorganization meeting Tuesday night, in which Mayor Shelley Brindle gave her annual State of the Town Address, which can be found in its entirety on the town’s Facebook page or website. In her address, she highlighted the town’s 2020 accomplishments as well as outlining 2021 priorities, specifically related to the town’s redevelopment process.
“First and foremost, I’m happy to report that the state of our town remains strong and our future prospects are very bright, in spite of the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic,” Mayor Brindle began.
Mayor Brindle said that the top priority is “to continue to ensure the health and welfare of our employees, residents and businesses,” and that, as the vaccine becomes more widely available, “we, as a forward-looking community, need to be ready to capitalize on our post-pandemic future through the groundwork we have laid over the last few years.”
Mayor Brindle and the town council took steps in 2020 to advance downtown redevelopment plans — notably by designating Streetworks Development, a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company (which owns the Lord & Taylor properties) as the developer for the Lord & Taylor properties as well as the North and South Avenue train station municipal parking lots and municipal Lot 7.
In the next year’s redevelopment actions, Mayor Brindle said she hopes to diversify the town’s tax base, increase downtown foot traffic, “diversify our housing stock by providing housing opportunities for newcomers and downsizers,” integrate the Lord & Taylor site into the overall downtown plan and “identify flexible, post-Covid parking solutions for commuters, downtown residents, employees and shoppers.”
Mayor Brindle asked residents to continue to stay informed and provide input to town officials as redevelopment planning continues.
Other 2021 goals presented by Mayor Brindle included establishing a short-term downtown economic recovery plan beginning Thursday, April 1, expanding community policing, launching a new town website and maintaining and enhancing town parks, namely, Brightwood, Tamaques and Mindowaskin.
The Finance Policy Committee passed 19 resolutions, including resolutions to appoint Green Team members and the Westfield Senior Advisory Council members. The committee also passed resolutions to appoint Suplee, Clooney & Company as the town’s auditor, Town Attorney Tom Jardim, Howard Egenberg as municipal prosecutor, Robert Bohrod as public defender, Robert Goldsmith as redevelopment attorney and Philip Abramson as redevelopment planner. Councilman Mark LoGrippo asked if the fees spent on the redevelopment attorney would be reimbursed by Streetworks.
“Yes, much of the fees for both the planner and the redevelopment counsel will be now charged escrow accounts, depending on the project they’re serving us on,” Town Administrator Jim Gildea said.
The council also approved resolutions from the Public Safety, Transportation and Parking Committee, Code Review and Town Property Committee and Public Works Committee to appoint an on-call traffic consultant, a municipal housing liaison and a C-3 sewer operator, respectively.
Mayor Brindle also announced mayoral and council appointments as well as proposed resolutions for employee and board appointments, all of which were unanimously approved by the town council members. The full list of 2021 appointments is available on westfieldnj.gov/agendaminutes under Westfield Town Council Meeting Agendas and Addendums.
Of note is the 2021 appointment of Jennifer Gilman as chair of the recreation commission. Mayor Brindle said during the meeting that she believed it was the first time the recreation commission will be chaired by a woman. “We know it’s been at least 30 years, and I think we can say it’s a safe bet it’s the first woman chairing the rec commission,” she said.
The town council will next meet on Tuesday, January 12, at 8 p.m. Residents are encouraged to participate via Zoom or watch the meeting via Facebook Live on the town’s Facebook page.
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