Post-Council Meeting, 6-2-21
Peppertown project team of professionals meet last week to kick off the project. Van Cleef will work on lay out, drainage and engineering as well as a phasing plan in accords with our three funding mechanisms: 1) capital 2) Connell Company donation 3) fee from developer of former Kings shopping center
We continue to work with our professionals on deciphering the guidelines for American Recovery Act funds as it relates to what funding can be used for by the Township.
The Township Administrator and I continue to work with the DPW director and Engineer on rolling out the paving schedule for 2021. We expect to publish in the next week or so.
EDC—On boarding continues to roll out of local business onto The Park app, a concierge services provided by Connell, for their future residents. Discussion took place about Technical Review Committee ordinance. I will have a copy in circulation shortly. The County approved a Shared Service for a videographer to film an economic development PSA promoting the Township to encourage business development; a created subcommittee of those who have media experience. We look forward to a draft story board.
TRHT— launch of Annie Young Academy by BHPD as their commitment to ensuring transparency in the police department along with police blotter on the Township website occurred this month in line with the committee’s mission. The committee discussed the Cultural Fair and the possible addition of event organizer, Atasha Scott, to assist with booking food trucks, entertainment and other attractions; an event is tentatively scheduled for the Fall.
Senior Affairs Committee- guest attendees from Summit Health (rebranded formerly Summit Medical Group) discussed health topics and potential speakers specifically for seniors. Summit Health previously committed to three (3) speakers annually, prior to the pandemic. Surveys are pouring in and the committee will need to move forward and collecting the data.
I was invited to speak at the Women’s Club of Berkeley Heights. It was a great opportunity to provide the club with Township updates. I was happy to be a part of the awards for the essay writers from Mountain Park and Hughes schools for the first annual contest held by the Club.
PAL “Parade” Weekend: Officer Patel and I attended the Heights Heat Softball Tournament at Upper Columbia. Officer Patel threw out the first pitch and riled up the team and fans! Officer Rodriguez and I attended the 5/6th grade baseball All-Star game. Officer Rodriguez threw a strike right down the middle. The Police Athletic League and the BHPD ensured a great weekend was had by all.
It was an honor to deliver a Memorial Day speech in remembrance of those veterans who have sacrificed all for our freedom. I also acknowledge those members of the military who are bravely serving at testing, vaccine, and food centers during the pandemic. Congratulations to Joe Federico on his honor as Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day “parade.”
“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." - Elmer Davis
Statement on Toll Brothers & Safe Routes to Transit (SRTT) Tree Removal
By Mayor Angie Devanney
May 26, 2021
Over the last several days, the removal of trees at the site of the old Little Flower Church and along Plainfield Avenue has been upsetting some of our residents. I, too, was taken aback while on my running route to witness the stark area now being developed by Toll Brothers on Hamilton Avenue. While all 7 development, redevelopment and sidewalk projects have been in the works for years, we are still doing all we can to best manage the forestry of these areas. Rest assured, we will hold the developer and contractors accountable for replanting areas disturbed.
As an aside, much of the building and construction happening in town today is as a result of Builder’s Remedy lawsuits (developers sued the Township) and a Judgement of Repose, JOR, (parties came to a settlement that was approved by a judge) allowing market rate and affordable housing issued by a judge. Signed in 2017, the JOR allows for the building of 7* market rate projects which also contain affordable housing unit.
As I have overheard many remark, “we are losing our small-town feel.” The reality is the State needs to act to implement REAL affordable housing reform to stop over development in towns like pours. Our call to action is to encourage the legislature to come to the table and undertake legislative action before our next round of affordable housing is due in 2025. As Mayor, I am actively participating in organizations, such as the League of Mayors, aimed to ease the burden on suburban communities.
Let’s review what’s going on today:
The old Little Flower Church property, now owned by Toll Brothers, was part of what was termed "the swap," dating back to 2010; this plan started with The Church of the Little Flower proposing the township "swap" the old library on Plainfield Avenue and land it is on plus a sum of money for the Little Flower Campus on Hamilton Avenue. After Toll Brothers closed on this property in Q1 of 2021, the Township received $10.5 million from the developer to go directly toward paying off the Township’s municipal complex debt.
There were about 369 trees that were removed as permitted by the Planning Board and Zoning Officer. With the magnitude or the size of the trees and the amount cleared, the Township requires more planting than removals. About 800 trees will be required to be replanted. The Town has leverage over the developer as the Township Engineer will not approve the project completion and the Construction Official will not provide a Certificate of Occupancy if these plantings are not satisfactorily completed.
SAFE ROUTES TO TRANSIT
Additionally, the Township is embarking on a large-scale sidewalk project along Plainfield Avenue, spanning the length of Plainfield between Mountain and Park Avenues.
The Township applied for the grant in 2018 and was awarded a significant ($410,000) grant in 2019 from New Jersey’s Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Safe Streets to Transit Program, which is paying for part of the project. This grant allows us to reconstruct and expand the sidewalk network along Plainfield, in front of Columbia Middle School (CMS) – a needed project that will not only improve the walkability of this area, but it will also reduce pedestrian safety hazards and add sidewalks where currently none exists.
This sidewalk improvement project addresses significant existing gaps in the pedestrian network in this area. The goal is to safely connect different neighborhoods to the downtown, schools and train station. This grant cannot be used for any other purpose including fixing existing sidewalks and must follow the mapping provide to state and federal agencies.
There are 30 trees that will be removed along Plainfield Avenue and plans to replace 21 are currently scheduled for those residents who elected to replant. Not all residents desire a replacement tree. Our Township Engineer is reviewing plans and will be on site to discern if and how many more additional trees can be added to the 21 to be replanted. We are working with the Environmental Commission to replant the correct species of trees that will thrive.
Beginning Wednesday, June 2, residents in the area can request additional trees at email@example.com. We will continue to communicate important information to our residents as these projects move forward.
*Former Kings, Stratton House), Former Berkeley Florist (Berkeley Crossing), Former Mondelli, Former Spatz (Millcreek), Former Movie Theater (The Terrace), Connell Company (The Park), Locust Ave (Woodcrest)
March 20, 2021
Stop Asian Hate
Statement by Mayor Angie Devanney
Over the last year and certainly more recently, we have witnessed the rise of hate crimes against Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) across many communities. Our neighbors in the AAPI community are our Berkeley Heights sisters and brothers. I stand today to lend my voice in condemning hate and racism against the AAPI community.
Unfortunately, our Township is no exception, as early in the global Covid-19 pandemic, adults and children alike were targeted and even blamed for the Coronavirus. Unthinkable. Heartbreaking.
Our Asian neighbors responded with generosity and compassion for our community as they raised funds and donated personal protection gear to our first responders when they needed it the most and more recently raising money for the BHPD. They are our business owners and business patrons and have launched community organizations geared to giving back to Berkeley Heights. The true definition of “neighbor.”
The actions of a few despicable people have caused pain and anguish over the last months, weeks and days. Hate has no Home in Berkeley Heights. Please report any bias incidents to our police department detective supervisor firstname.lastname@example.org. All reports are confidential. Officer Pooja Patel can assist residents who speak Hindi or Gujarati with any language barriers to help file a report. We are also identifying volunteers who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and other Asian languages to assist the Township.
Inclusion, diversity and creating a welcoming community is the priority of the BHPD and the Township. I ask every resident to join me and pledge to work together to #stopasianhate.
March 15, 2021
Statement by Mayor Angie Devanney
“Residents may be aware of a social media post that detailed a reported racist event over the weekend. As a Hate has No Home community, everyone of every color, gender, nationality, sexual identity, sexual orientation and religion is welcomed in our community.
Our Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Taskforce continues to discuss how we can be more intentional about inclusion and integration into Berkeley Heights.
I take very seriously how our values and morals - our love and respect for our neighbors and visitors alike - are represented. And I strongly condemn any actions that involve racist or bias behavior of any kind.”