Westfield Council Approves South Ave. Redevelop. Plan

By REBECCA MEHORTER
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

WESTFIELD — The Westfield Town Council passed on second reading General Ordinance No. 2209 to adopt the South Avenue Redevelopment Plan at its Tuesday meeting.

Mayor Shelley Brindle said that the plan is the first step in a long process and that the specifics of the project, like the exact parking details and public benefits, will be determined in the redevelopment agreement. She said she hopes the project will be completed in 2024 and will provide tax benefits and a beautiful entry point to the town.

In response to public comments on the ordinance, Chris Colley of consultant Topology said the minimum parking requirements outlined in the redevelopment plan are consistent or larger than projects in the surrounding areas.

In other business, the council approved bills and claims in the amount of $2,897,198.72, which Town Administrator Jim Gildea noted is particularly high because it contains half the payment to the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority.

Councilwoman Linda Habgood updated her governing body colleagues and viewers on the town’s budget process. She said the Finance Policy Committee has elected to delay the presentation by two weeks as the committee waits to see how the federal stimulus package that may be approved and information from Governor Phil Murphy about potentially pushing back the required deadline may affect the town budget. She said that unless otherwise directed by the state, the town’s 2021 budget will be discussed at the Tuesday, March 23 conference meeting and presented at the regular meeting.

The Finance Policy Committee also passed six resolutions, among them a resolution to approve temporary emergency appropriations. The money funds salaries and payments that are due before the council adopts the 2021 budget, totaling $14,235,831 for salaries and payments and $46,000 for the Swimming Pool Utility Fund.

Westfield Police Chief Chris Battiloro spoke about the six car thefts the police department has seen so far this year. He said the issue of car theft will not go away until residents “step up” and remember to lock their cars and take their key fobs inside their homes at night. He said the thefts put a burden on the police department’s investigative resources and also puts officers at risk while conducting investigations.

Mayor Brindle read a proclamation during the public portion of the meeting designating the week of March 8 as Girl Scouts Week, and spoke about the organization’s merits and pivot to virtual activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the conference meeting, two Girl Scouts received approval for their Silver and Gold Award projects.

For her Silver Award project, middle-school student Talia Schaible will create a fairy trail in the wooded area of Tamaques Park. She said she was inspired by families stuck inside all year, saying, “I feel like having a little fairy trail would be like a mystic, magical place to get away from it all.” She said she hopes to have the project done by June.

Girl Scout Jessica Currie is working on her Gold Award project to create a labyrinth 11 feet in diameter at Sycamore Park. The walking portion of the labyrinth will be mulch, and the exterior will be made of approximately 800 painted rocks, she said. Jessica hopes to have different groups in the community, such as senior citizens and Girl Scouts, paint the rocks as a community art project.

Mayor Brindle also reminded residents that the 15 seesaws in the North Avenue train station parking lot are ready for resident use and offer “the joy we all need right now.” She also said businesses are reporting a “significant uptick in foot traffic,” which was the goal of the project. She announced that the Quimby Street plaza will open again on Thursday, April 1, as the weather warms up.

The next town council meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 23, at 8 p.m. Residents can watch via Facebook Live or participate by joining the Zoom call.

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