Mayor Glover Talks Revitalizing Scotch Plains Downtown, Police Merger

"Downtown suffers from a lack of foot traffic," he said. "Increasing foot traffic needs to and must be made our top priority."

At Scotch Plains council's first meeting of the year, Mayor Kevin Glover gave his second State of the Town address and set goals for the new year. 

The mayor first pointed to the town's promise to improve communications after Hurricane Sandy, noting "great strides" made by fixing Scotch Plains TV, upgrading the town website and adding a shared radio station with Fanwood. He added that this year he would like to designate a council member to oversee the technology upgrades.

Glover then discussed revitalizing downtown and the suspension of the annual $400 fee businesses paid to the Special Improvement District.

"Well meaning efforts have not produced the results that we have so long sought after," Glover said, adding that he will not support reinstating the fee this year. 

"Downtown suffers from a lack of foot traffic," he said. "Increasing foot traffic needs to and must be made our top priority."

To that end, the mayor said he plans to promote more family activities and town events in the downtown area including "craft shows and outdoor movie nights" in addition to the current summer concert series, farmer's market and Scotch Plains Day. 

The mayor added that he believes the town can further invest in the recreation department, to enable them to hold more regularly scheduled outdoor activities, with funds secured from the Shackamaxon development deal.

The mayor reflected on the town's "every increasing tax burden" and how he was proud to say that last year saw the lowest budget increase in 10 years.  

"How many times do people say they can afford the home here but not the taxes?" he said. 

To save money, the mayor also called for the resumption of meetings with Fanwood on the proposed merger of the towns' police departments.  

"Presently efforts have stalled," Glover said, "because of respectful differences on the proposed plan to accomplish it."

The mayor also discussed his suggestion to put the town's sewer fee back into the budget and regular tax bill, saying he would like to see it on the ballot as a public referendum.

"We learned this year that removing it cost residents $400,000 in lost tax deductions," he said. "The premise of this being a fairer way of paying for this service was not true. I'm told rolling it back into the municipal budget is not possible. We were advised we can do so by putting the issue on the election ballot as a public referendum. Therefore, I will ask this council to move by placing this matter on the ballot. Let us get the facts, options and hear what the public thinks."

The mayor's last points focused on the historical preservation of the Shady Rest building at the Scotch Hills Country Club and work on the Terry Lou Zoo property.

"This is where America's first American pro golfer John Shippen, an African American, played throughout his illustrious career and it has now fallen into disrepair," he said of the Shady Rest. "Your council outlined a plan to restore and save this historic piece of American history."

The mayor added that historic Shippen artifacts will be available to be housed in a permanent exhibit as long as the Shady Rest building can be secured. 

On the Terry Lou Zoo property, the mayor said it has been "14 years that we have heard that this was the year we would finally turn this property from an eyesore into a passive park for all to enjoy. Let's make this year, 2014, the one when we finally deliver on that promise."

The mayor said he is asking the recreation commission to propose options for the property to council.

The mayor closed by thanking the town's first responders and volunteers and saying it has been a privilege to serve as mayor.

"We begin 2014 anew with a clean slate," said Glover. "We must pledge ourselves to work together for good of all of Scotch Plains. As I have said repeatedly, we can do better."

Kyle Martinowich January 17, 2014 at 01:36 PM
Pre Requisite: New Homeowner to SP(Dec 2nd 2013), though grew up in Westfield. 1.) Downtown SP is not like Fanwood or Westfield. Both these towns are TOD(http://www.njfuture.org/issues/transportation/transit-oriented/) where zoning regulations can be manipulated and have been to create growth. Fanwood & Westfield saw developer interest because of the TOD designation. Cheaper loans, less regulations, mixed use buildings(mid rises) etc. Downtown SP has no transit hub, so it gets no investment. I'm 32, everyone i know moving from Brooklyn or Manhattan wants to be near public/private transportation. My suggestion to the business owners/property owners is to create a bus depot in Downtwon SP, Montclair has a company in town called DeCamp, this would definitly drive more residents into that area. Also, the SP Municipal Building is the biggest waste of quality land and no tax revenue in town. The towns should merege and a new Municipal Center for boith towns should be built where the Fanwood PD station/municipal area is on Martine. The existing SP Municipal Building and parking should be converted into Mixed use and get residents the tax revenue it deserves from its property.
Kyle Martinowich January 17, 2014 at 01:40 PM
cont... 2.) We should consider regionalizing(county takeover) of all parks. Essex County has proven this to be positive for cost savings and keeping parks looking consistent around the county.
Barbara Paprocki January 23, 2014 at 08:34 AM
Since I have lived in Scotch Plains, the downtown has remained a great disappointment. I only frequent my bank as well as a dry cleaner weekly. If you desire greater foot traffic in Scotch Plains, entice more relevant businesses.
Caleb Cohen January 24, 2014 at 02:27 PM
Funny, I raised many of the same issues noted above a year ago and got shouted off the boards as well as off a FB group. Glad to see some of my line of thinking coming out a bit more. I could fix downtown SP in a heart-beat, but I'll rather enjoy your constant complaining and enjoy Fanwood's revitalized downtown. I find myself there more often every week these days. Once the final stage of crossings opens, I bet the Apartment/Condo development might finally get started. Please, no merger. We're doing quite fine and don't need the baggage you will bring to the political table. I used to want a merger, over the past 12-18 months, I've come to realize it would be a bad deal for Fanwoodians.
jpfanwood January 24, 2014 at 02:32 PM
Sadly I agree with Caleb. Fanwood's taxes certainly won't come down if we merge anyway, so why do it? The heart of little towns like ours is the main street, the downtown—when they suffer, so does the reputation of the town itself. SP's business district is in desperate need of more than a facelift—it needs to give people a better reason to be there and spend money.


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