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."

jpfanwood January 16, 2014 at 11:51 AM
One small suggestion about downtown—it would be amazing if we could get an Indian or Thai restaurant to open. There is a serious lack of variety when it comes to dining options. Italian/pub grub/chinese/sushi—that's all we've got in all of SP/Fanwood.
Wendy January 16, 2014 at 11:59 AM
What we really need, first and foremost, is a coffee place like Starbucks or another franchise--or something independent--in the Park Ave. downtown area. The Westfield Starbucks is always overrun with Scotch Plains teenagers....I would think they'd much rather hang out in their own town. And I know that my friends and I would frequent a place like that on Park Ave if it existed (instead of having to meet in Westfield). What an enormous difference this would make to Scotch Plains.
jpfanwood January 16, 2014 at 12:03 PM
^^^YES. That too would be very helpful to get people downtown! (And if it's independent/smaller than Starbucks, even better!)
RockBlondie January 16, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Yeah, Westfield is a prosperous town with variety. Downtown scotch plains is too outdated with no variety. We have THREE nail salons in the same strip mall with a few restaurants here and there...Stagnant is you ask me.
Bo Vastine January 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM
The bigger question is: do we spend our valuable…limited…resources on car shows, swap meets and movie nights, as the Mayor suggests, or do we use those resources to create a long-term vision along with a sustainable plan for the downtown? I believe that we need to develop a plan rather than continue to use resources that have no long-term return on investment. Foot traffic is important, but when there is not enough to keep them downtown once they have picked up the latest needle point creation…“we need to do better”. I will propose that we put together a sub-committee for downtown revitalization, to devise a vision…along with a realistic plan to improve our downtown. I have said for three years now that the failure of the SID has been due to a combination of political interference and the lack of a vision and strategy for implementation. I propose that we bring together property owners, business owners and qualified interested residents to begin to create the vision. We then use the money from Shackamaxon to create a manifestation of that vision for everyone in town to see and provide feedback on. Once we have a “general” opinion on the plan, we use remaining money from "Shack" to begin executing on the plan. I propose using the money from “Shack” for this investment, so that the property owners will not bear the burden of creating this vision. Understandably, they are tired of paying the SID fee…they have paid money into the system with nothing to show for it. I believe that if that burden is removed, there will be a greater sense of cooperation between property and business owners in creating a real vision. Residents will also be a part of this process, because in the end…we want our residents to have buy-in on where they will want to shop and do business. It might be…as some here have suggested…Starbucks and the like. At this point, however, the downtown needs leadership for something much bigger and better than a needle craft show. Those small ideas might get people to come out for free entertainment…but it won’t translate into more business for our merchants…or higher rents for our property owners.
lureen ong January 16, 2014 at 01:08 PM
Why go into town? it is outdated, ugly, you have the back of stores facing Park Ave, there are no store incentives except John's meat market. Fanwood is progressing better that SP, They have uniform signs, lovely lamp posts, becoming charming like Millburn, Chatham, Chester, Maplewood... we are heading towards the likes of Plainfield!
becks January 16, 2014 at 01:47 PM
Bo I don't think you were around when the SID was formed. There was a vision and there was a strategy. The mayor and council wanted to go one direction and the business people wanted to go a different way. If you want to improve the downtown get all your business/property owners together for a meeting and discuss putting the SID back in place.
Ed Minall January 16, 2014 at 05:31 PM
@ Bo - I couldn’t agree more. The concerts etc. are nice and have good intentions, but they are a flash in the pan. The merchants downtown will benefit only a few days out of the year. There needs to be long term planning. Our downtown is extremely challenged due to the lack of open space. Fanwood has impeccable timing. They are able to turnaround a former industrial area into a revitalized downtown. I think you are the right person for spearheading the unofficial SID. I will volunteer my time as well if you want my/resident input.
Holden MaGroin January 17, 2014 at 12:17 AM
I’m Holden MaGroin and I have a lot to say on this……….. First I must applaud our mayor. Can you imagine our own traffic nightmare if the bridge going over route 22 at the end of Park Ave. was closed for 4 days? Mayor Glover, you showed such foresight in endorsing the governor in order to keep our citizens safe. Now I would like to suggest some poo pourri for that sewer utility idea of yours because it stinks……Next I would like to wish councilman Vastine a healthy New Year… Why you ask? Because we are all now paying for his health care and he and I are in agreement in that we both, “believe that we need to develop a plan rather than continue to use resources that have no long-term return on investment”….. Towards that end councilman, I would like to see you lose 40 pounds, eat healthier, and begin an exercise regimen that is both frequent and visible. Since you have changed your position that it’s ok for Mayor Goose to get $25,000 of our taxes for health care because a few of the ganders now need it, I would think that we should try all we can to keep those expenses down…….. I would ask the same better habits be taken up by gander Marcus as he too has found it better to receive rather than to give. I haven’t yet heard if councilwoman Gianella is double dipping on public health care from us as well as the Clark school taxpayers, but if she is I think a pilates class would be in order…….. I see splashed on the front page of the Scotch Plains Times today a birth announcement from our new councilman Jones. I would like to offer my best wishes to his growing family and let him know that unless this is the kickoff to his new campaign, we are aware that he is now a councilman and do not need to have his family photo album displayed each week between now and the November election…….My request on a moratorium of family photos in the paper is purely for selfish reasons, as I fear that all candidates will soon be requesting equal time and that may not be such a pretty sight…….I’ll continue to another frame.
Holden MaGroin January 17, 2014 at 12:19 AM
I’m Holden MaGroin and this is for councilman Bo. I have lots for you but I don’t think I can include it all in one reply so I will pick and choose for now. From your comment above it looks like your campaign for another 4 years of free health care (or as you put it – re-election) has now begun and the issues you will be using are “small ideas” from your opponents and taking any “Shack” money and spending it as fast as it comes in……… Concerning the “Shack” money, do you have an estimate of how much they will be paying off to the town in order to develop some of their property? Have you given any thought whatsoever to possible using that money for tax relief? Has there been any empirical data created that shows it’s better to spend this money downtown versus reducing our taxes?...........In keeping on the topic of spending our “valuable…limited resources”, have you and Mr. Jones figured out how much more money you’re going to give the library? Remember that Mr. Fortunato wrote all those letters castigating the council for reducing the funding and promising that you and Mr. Jones would increase it. He wrote so many of those letters that he got himself appointed to the zoning board……..Speaking of new appointments, can you tell us if any of the new appointments (who are really the old connected firms and people from 2 years ago) have had increases in their fees? …. Since it took Mr. Jones only a week after the election to warn us that a big tax increase was coming I am trying to figure out how adding at least $50,000 of new health coverage for you and Mr. Marcus, adding however much more you’re going to give the library, investing more money into downtown, plus any normal growth built into the labor contracts will help us taxpayers………I’m afraid that any money coming from “Shack” (which is not a recurring income source) is going to be wasted on your dreams and promises. Well that’s it for now. Be well councilman Bo….i cannot afford for you to get sick and have your premiums raised.
jpfanwood January 17, 2014 at 08:10 AM
Isn't that quaint? "Holding My Groin" thinks his snarkiness and sarcasm will move people in local government to change! Suggestion: 1) pick a name a teenager WOULDN'T choose, and 2) be more concise and direct with what you want to say. Yeesh—you could be making a much more effective argument if you wrote like someone older than nineteen. Clearly you have something important to say—next time, take on the persona of an adult. "Holden McGroin" . . . that's just sad.
Holden MaGroin January 17, 2014 at 08:31 AM
I'm Holden MaGroin and I'm actually a quite happy fellow. Though I have a sneaking suspicion that "jp" may be one of my Fanwood friends pulling a New Years prank on me. "Jp" are you really Herbie Hind or Hugh Jass? They're my 2 best friends from Fanwood and don't doubt that they would make up a post to tease me.........please don't obsess over the hairshirt I wear that is my name but rather be outraged at the hypocracy, cronyism, and waste that permeates throughout town hall.
SP Resident January 17, 2014 at 09:16 AM
I've lived in SP for over 20 years and agree that there is no reason to go "downtown". A few years ago, as we watched the meetings for the SID in SP, I thought it was pretty pathetic when the owner of a consignment shop said she had the most "successful business" in downtown...I believe that store has changed hands since then. I laughed as one of the owners of a small business said "we don't want to become like Westfield". Why... because Westfield has a lot of traffic, pedestrians, franchise stores and a successful downtown? Very little has changed in downtown SP as long as I've lived here. It's the same old shops that no one frequents. Movie nights and summer concert series...that may get some SP residents to come out but it won't draw out of towners INTO Scotch Plains and that's what we need. People need a reason to come to our downtown and right now there isn't one. Other than the addition of Darby Road, which my family does go to, there isn't one other business we frequent in SP...not a nail salon (Westfield), bank (Westfield), outdoor eatery(Westfield), coffee shop (Westfield), clothing store (Westfield)...see where I'm headed? I have never understood how the businesses that are in the downtown stay afloat. It's time for our town "leaders" to work toward attracting some franchise stores into our town (besides a CVS). It's time for the business owners to either realize their day has come and gone or start offering a service or item that makes people want to come to SP. Movie nights and summer concerts (yawn) aren't going to do that.
Michael Lewis January 17, 2014 at 09:33 AM
Full disclosure: No (direct) horse in this one. Just a couple of quick points: 1) Mr. Vastine and Mr. Glover are BOTH right – a longer-term plan is necessary but (unfortunately) must be papered-over with SOMETHING until one can be realized. 2) The nature of retailing has itself changed, for better or worse. Jewelers, gas stations, hardware stores, dress shops, bake shops, shoe stores, travel agencies, opticians, pharmacies, florists – all gone or under siege. SP has no natural hub or destination / anchor – Fanwood has two: the train station and (Mayor Mahr, take note!) the A&P. 4) Unless shop-owners can occupy a defensible niche or compliment highway stores in some fashion, that pressure will persist (Westfield succeeds in doing both). 5) It is for these reasons that redevelopment of the Library was so important to SP (if not necessarily Fanwood) – to create an anchor / hub so as to give people a reason to head to downtown SP in spite of the traffic / parking (I do not go to Westfield if I can avoid it – increasingly, I avoid SP as well). 6) An entity other than SP is going to have to be involved in creating such an anchor / hub with the town’s cooperation so as to provide the necessary size and scope…as well as to spread the cost. 7) With the concept of a REGIONALIZED library system in the back of MY mind, I would offer the County or our BOE as logical places to start.
Dorothy Patkus January 17, 2014 at 10:17 AM
I, too, have lived in Scotch Plains for many years. This discussion/debate has been going on all this time with no real improvement while seeing both Westfield, and now Fanwood, improve and thrive. What's the problem, Scotch Plains? We have ridiculously high taxes and I am not sure what we have to show for it anymore. I think, like everything in our world now, it's all about politics. Get your act together, get real discussions going with the COMMUNITY, and get it done!
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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