Oct. 30, 2015 — We here at Triple B like things short and sweet. Make your point and move on. Don’t use a lot of flowery language if you want our attention. We’re Scotch drinkers here.
With that in mind, we sent five questions to the two candidates for mayor of Metuchen, Pete Cammarano and Daniel Lebar, to try and elicit their ideas on some major issues. We asked them to keep their answers short and to the point. Here is what they had to say (Remember to vote on Tuesday):
1.) How will the Pearl St. redevelopment project affect the borough?
Daniel: Without Woodmont, parking deck alone would simply be vertical re-format of Pearl St.’s former blacktop expanse. Woodmont’s residential influx, depending on tenant mix (senior re-locators vs singles & young marrieds currently with, without, expecting or planning children) presents potential opportunities (new retail customer base) and challenges (increased demand for municipal and public school services), re-channeled commuter & intensified traffic flows within central business district.
Pete: The Pearl St. redevelopment is the result of years of planning and public input that only happens in unique communities like Metuchen. Those sessions with the residents and merchants sought public input and helped develop a project that will enhance the downtown and the entire community. I believe the benefits from this project along with the development of Whole Foods Store will bring lasting improvements to the Borough.
2.) What impact will the influx of new residents have on the borough, in terms of businesses and traffic?
Daniel: Partially answered, above – Campbell School already witnessing classroom space shortfall in music curriculum from ‘organic’ generational churn of pre-existing housing. Overflowing trash & recycling bins between pickups is additional indicator, current intensifying municipal service demands irrespective of new residents ‘in pipeline’ from Woodmont, former ‘Bill’s Ineffable Automotive’ site (behind TD Bank on Lake).
Pete: Most traffic in town is transient or pass-through traffic from the surrounding community. Development near mass transit stations generally results in less vehicles than projects further away. Residents that move to these developments are more likely to commute by train and may not need an additional car. We have seen fewer vehicles per household in other projects near the train station including Franklin Square. Increasing the number of residents in the downtown area will benefit the local businesses and help create a more vibrant downtown.
3.) Should Metuchen be a more pedestrian friendly place? Why or why not?
Daniel: ‘Goes without saying’, indispensable for favorable shopping experience. ‘Complete sidewalks’ policy must be pursued in tandem with statewide ‘complete streets’ program – management of myriad competing uses – fixtures (Victorian lamps, benches, trees with surrounding ground treatments, decorative planters), pedestrians, joggers & runners, infant strollers, cane-dependent persons, rolling walker assists, wheelchair bound, youth bicyclists, skate boarders, devise & implement strategies, designs to fit it all in, forestall tripping hazards (likely joint study project, Accessibility, Traffic & Transportation, Development Committees & Borough professional staff). ‘Breeze’s Cafe’ achieved fullest realization of retail vision after relocating to Middlesex Ave; Torino 2, Novita similarly on New St. Main Street’s ‘in and out’ sidewalk widths from storefront to curb ordinarily pose impediment (Hailey’s Harp & Pub notable exception).
Pete: We need to do more to make Metuchen Pedestrian and Bike safe. We have a large number of young families that walk and bike around town and we need to ensure their safety. We also need to explore opportunities to expand foot and pedal power initiatives, including bike lanes and safer crosswalks and safer routes to schools for children.
4.) How should Metuchen handle the decrepit firehouse situation?
Daniel: More questions than answers at this stage. Metuchen would be well-served with licensed professional architectural guidance, perhaps sourced from examining reasonably contemporary firehouse building plans around Middlesex County (Edison, South Plainfield, Perth Amboy, South Amboy), Hamilton Street-Franklin, Somerset County or consider junior level from Looney Ricks Kiss (Boro Planner Jim Constantine’s firm).
Pete: The firehouse is in need of replacement. The two big questions are where do you build a new one and how do you pay for it. The Mayor and Council have started the process by having a Task Force look at potential sites and the condition of the existing facility. The next step is to start working toward a potential solution that meets the needs of the Fire Department and is affordable to residents.
5.) Describe your vision of the future of Metuchen.
Daniel: Confident, thriving, self-contained community, everything you need to ‘make a house a home’ available from retailers within our borders, including broad range recreational and entertainment choices, while maintaining legacy ‘small town charm’ where ‘everyone knows your name’.
Pete: These are exciting times in Metuchen. I don’t recall another time in my life when there was so much change happening at once. We need to manage that change carefully and continue to ensure that the downtown is enhanced by the development. These projects are the stepping stone of the future in our town. We need to leverage the benefits that we receive from these projects so the entire community benefits.
Editor’s note: Lightly edited for grammar.