May 23, 2017
At the beginning of May, CFR requested the views on six topics from the Republican candidates for the primary for the two contested Township Committee positions. The deadline for responding was Sunday, May 21st. Four people are running for the two available seats. The team of John Albanese and Jonathan Heller chose to respond. See below. The team of Britt Simon and Wayne Borella chose not to respond.
We offered to print the responses, word for word, up to the work limit. The #6 response of Albanese and Heller exceeds the word limit, so we deleted the excess after the end of the last allowable sentence. The word limit was imposed so that all candidates would have the same amount of space to express their viewpoints.
1) Briefly list your most important volunteer activities that you have done for Readington. (max. 100 words)
Jonathan Heller has been a citizen scientist volunteer with Raritan Headwaters Association for over 15 years. He volunteered as Cubmaster and Scoutmaster in Boy Scouts of America. He has volunteered in Readington Township for Parks, Recreation and Leisure Activities Committee, Open Space Advisory Board, Environmental Committee and Board of Adjustments. John Albanese was excited to have been interviewed and selected to be member of the Planning Board in 2016. He was honored to be selected as Vice Chair for 2017. He participates in volunteer efforts at Whitehouse School and in town youth sports organizing and coaching baseball and basketball.
2) What qualifications do you bring to the Township Committee and how will those qualifications benefit Readington over the next three years? (250 words)
John and Jonathan are longtime residents (53 years combined) who will bring an in-depth knowledge of many of the complex issues in Readington. Jonathan has spent 32 years in the sale of steel construction products in the metropolitan NY area. John has been a project manager and network planner for fiber optic telecommunications networks for the NYC market for over 20 years. We both have experience in reviewing blueprints, estimating & preparing million dollar budgets, planning and project managing. We have worked with architects, engineers & contractors as well as office personnel and have proven leadership and decision making skills in our respective careers. John Albanese has experience in state government serving as a Legislative Aide to State Senator Bill Schluter.
We have attended most of the Township Committee, Planning Board, Open Space Advisory Board, Environmental Committee and Board of Adjustment meetings over the past few years which affords us the ability to say that we have a good sense of what is going on in Readington Township. We will continue to pay attention to what the residents of Readington Township want from their elected officials. We possess the ability to listen to all sides of the issues and to make the best decisions for the greater good in a collaborative manner. We will be able to open the lines of communication between the Township Committee, all of the professionals that conduct business with Readington Township and with all of its residents.
3) There has been no recent news on the airport since it is still in court. The owners have clearly stated their intention to expand; the Township Committee has consistently opposed runway expansion. How do you see the issue unfolding? If you advocate negotiations, how do you negotiate with a party that doesn’t want to make concessions? (250 words)
We would like to see the airport operate as a successful general aviation facility that our community takes pride in. We do not support runway expansion that takes the airport into a category of a large commercial facility that negatively impacts our community. Communications with ownership is the key to moving towards an amicably negotiated resolution to the airport issue. There has been no dialogue between the Township and the Solberg’s since the litigation was initiated. The courts have made their judgments and the Township continues to appeal the judge’s resolution to the Prerogative Writ case that changed the zoning of the airport property to include the entire 726 acre parcel. The questions need to be asked; what does ownership want, what are they willing to accept, what do they expect the Township and the residents of Readington Township to accept from our neighbors on Solberg Road? We do not have any outside interests other than getting this issue off taxpayer backs and removing this cloud that’s been hanging over Readington for too long.
The next step is for the appeal process to take place. We have spoken with Readington’s new attorney for the airport litigation and as we understand it, both sides are preparing their briefs for the Appellate Court. This will likely be in-flight with the Court when the two newly elected members to the Township Committee take office in January.
4) What is your understanding of the current Affordable Housing situation for Readington? If you were a member of the TC, what would be your recommendations? (250 words)
Affordable Housing as it’s now being mandated in Superior Court will be ordering most towns in NJ to add a substantial amount of new residences. The numbers we are hearing are staggering for our town (500-1500 new units). We would recommend staying the course with Readington continuing to advocate in Superior Court. Readington has partnered with the other towns in our vicinage to conserve resources in this advocacy position. We will look for more appropriate locations for this type of development along the Route 22 and 202 corridors. We will investigate recapturing any sewer capacity via repairs to the system to maximize capacity and give more options for locations. We should continue to be proactive in planning to meet these requirements by building as many 100% affordable housing developments as possible to reduce the impact on the town. The Township should also look to partner with developers to determine the least impactful development plans to meet these requirements. The Township should attempt to coordinate with any pending development to include an affordable housing component. By remaining proactive we can assert our own master plan and zoning ordinances, and, resist the “builder’s remedy” that is pending in our intervener lawsuits.
We have spoken with State representatives for our area including Senator Bateman encouraging them to solve this problem via a legislative remedy. We need to remember that Readington has years to meet these mandates. This buys municipalities some time to press for a more reasonable State legislative solution. We should have a measure reaction. Every option needs to be on the table on this issue.
5) Comments on town finances (budget, debt & taxes) (150 words)
We are encouraged that Readington’s debt level continues in a downward trend. We are for correctly budgeting each year for estimated expenses instead of kicking the can down the road as we’ve seen in the past. We were happy to hear that Readington’s overall tax value assessment was $16M higher in 2016 than in 2015 reversing a trend since Merck’s departure. This is largely due to the Regency 55+ community on Route 22 coming on-line. In a recent discussion with the developer, they indicated that they are selling at a faster rate than anticipated with all 42 single family homes sold even as some of them aren’t completed. This shows us the economic viability and desirability to live in our town.
6) Other issues involving the Township Committee that are not covered in the above questions (150 words)
We want to see better communications between our Township and its residents. We want our community to trust and participate in our town government. We will continue efforts to communicate better with residents. We will advocate for greater transparency in all committee boards and would encourage greater participation and volunteerism from the community.
We will continue supporting our Emergency Services volunteers in the way that they require. We both have an understanding of the need for up-to-date equipment, buildings and grounds. We have family members involved in emergency services in other towns. We are well-versed in what it takes to be part of these teams.
We should continue to support the acceptable ratables that correctly fit into Readington by encouraging new business in our commercial zoning areas. We should provide assistance to Merck to facilitate the sale of their property to a viable business entity. We are encouraged to hear recent, positive developments for this property.