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Petition Against Borough Hall Bond Ordinance Filed

This petition may stall the bond ordinance that was previously approved to fund the reconstruction Hightstown Borough Hall.

A committee consisting of Steve Misiura, Denny Hansen, Rick Pratt, Fred Montferrat, and Walter Sikorski created a petition for a public referendum on the Hightstown bond ordinance that funds the creation of the new Borough hall. The petition was filed on Wednesday, April 24 with Borough Clerk Debra Sopronyi.

The Hightstown Borough Hall has been uninhabitable since it was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011. The bond ordinance was approved by Borough Council on April 1.

New Jersey law N.J.S.A. 40:49–27 establishes a right to a public referendum regarding any ordinance authorizing the incurring of an indebtedness, Sopronyi explained. The law states that the petition must be signed by 15 percent of the people who voted in the most recent election for State Assembly, which in Hightstown was the 2011 General Election where 1,063 people voted, Sopronyi said. Therefore, at least 160 people were needed to sign the petition and a total of 355 “uncertified” signatures were on the petition, according to the clerk. Sopronyi has 10 days to verify that all people who signed the petition are indeed certified to vote.

All propositions submitted under N.J.S.A. 40:29-27 shall be voted upon at the next general election held in Hightstown at least 30 days after the petition is filed, unless the governing body calls for a special election, according to N.J.S.A. 40:49-10.

Misura and Montferrat are members of the Hightstown Planning Board, which previously recommended that the Borough Council not rebuild the Borough Hall in its existing location because it is within a flood zone.

Misiura is also a Hightstown Democratic Candidate running this year alongside Hansen. Misiura and Hansen are looking to replace Republican incumbents Selena Bibens and Lynne Woods, who have both shown support of the bond ordinance to rebuild Borough Hall in its current location.

TELL US: What do you think? Do you think that Borough Hall should be rebuilt at the 148 North Main Street location, or should the council look into putting the municipal offices at 415 Main Street, the Lucas property, where the police department is currently residing.

Jeff Peters April 29, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Fed Up, are familiar with the joint study EW and Hightstown did on the subject of the Route 33 Corridor Redevelopment? Here's a link to the plan: http://www.hightstownborough.com/report/Route_33_Corridor_Study.pdf Here's a news story from last summer about it: http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2012/07/east_windsor_hightstown_offici.html This is the forward-thinking concept focused on improving our community that would make the Lucas property a valuable asset. None of this will happen overnight, but we have to think about the future, not the past. Rebuilding on N. Main is dwelling in the past.
Jeff Peters April 29, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Fed Up - see my note above about the Route 33 Corridor Redevelopment plan. As for Lucas, the company just went bankrupt so the real estate equation has shifted.
RemodelRX April 30, 2013 at 10:44 AM
J Peters - I have been following your posts and the others and I must say I am quite pleased to learn that some voices are inspirational. You make sense and need as much support as possible. Please review this .pdf and feel free to share it with others if you are interested in it's message. I have always felt that if we were to develop an area within exit eight as a park and ride / refueling station for buses and municipalities who decide on purchasing more efficient transportation we could partner with the bus companies and surrounding municipalities on this, they could upgrading their busses and the surrounding municipalities could do the same for their transportation needs. We would be providing alternative fuels and lead the way to healthier air quality while enhancing our strategic positioning as a central location in NJ. The partnership would be multifaceted and would not be burdensome to a single small community. At that time our location and additional asset would be obvious to East Windsor thus altering the dynamic between the two. By offer surrounding municipalities this partnership and service, refueling their municipal vehicles we would usher in a new era for us all. www1.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/pdfs/strategic_plan.pdf
rules rule April 30, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Don't we have a bus depot on Stockton Street? Everyday I see a Michael's bus or two pulling into the backyard of a residential home. So sad for the neighbors. Is this really ok?
B.Bennett April 30, 2013 at 01:27 PM
We have witnessed that also....and there are bus waiting areas on Rogers near the 1st Constitution Bank and one near Krauszer's on Franklin Street....probably others around....
Jason Taylor April 30, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Buses going to NYC? Wouldnt make sense to have a conolidated stop for NYC/Philly commuters?
Jeff Peters April 30, 2013 at 02:23 PM
This is another great forward-thinking concept. I'm looking forward to reading it! The Hightstown Environmental Commission meets the 4th Tuesday of every month. This seems like a fantastic idea to explore with them.
Jeff Peters April 30, 2013 at 02:27 PM
B. Bennett is right, the Coach/Academy lines stop at those two locations in Hightstown. The problem is that the buses are unreliable (some drivers skip those stops) so few people pick up the bus there... since few people wait at those stops, the drivers skip them and use the 33 extension to skip downtown. It's a self-perpetuating cycle: not enough riders to stop, riders don't use the locations because the buses don't show. Having a dedicated park and ride would change that. And perhaps it's not Coach/Academy that services it. Perhaps one of their competitors would want to get into this market. Or NJ Transit (although state budgets are a mess).
Jeff Peters April 30, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Hightstown's location right between NYC and Philly is one of its greatest untapped assets. I would love it if our leadership would focus on using that geographical fact to market the town to home buyers looking for commuting options to both those cities.
Chris April 30, 2013 at 02:45 PM
While I don't agree that buying the Lucas building is the centerpiece of consolidation, revitalizing the downtown, or even redeveloping the Mill, it is refreshing to hear these ideas and reaffirmation that there is vitality in the community. In my view, why not build an attractive building architecturally linked to the downtown design? Buildings with proper mitigation are built in flood zones all the time & if consolidation ever happened, the building could be sold just like the Mill was once sold by the Borough. With respect to the Mill, while I understand trying to link the Mill to the downtown, why not demolish the Mill and plan a quiet attractive residential neighborhood just like Cranbury did off of their Main Street. Reusing old factories , though appealing in concept, has rarely taken hold in New Jersey & is largely nonexistent outside urbanized cities, e.g. Jersey City, Hoboken, Trenton, New Brunswick. Do we see ourselves as one of those cities? I think residents, the Planning Board, and Council should shift its vision for the Mill and then you would see the Borough Hall issue should only be about dollars and cents. And I personally don’t begrudge the initiative that some on Council have shown trying to accomplish something. My only wish is that we could stem the cycle of one controversy after another.
Lee Stults April 30, 2013 at 02:58 PM
For anyone still in doubt, take a look at the links below for some ideas of what's possible at the mill site. I imagine commuters (NYC and Philly) would enjoy this type of loft living with the added benefit of our small town feel. Let's keep the visionary discussions moving forward and encourage Council to create a new Redevelopment Authority for the mill property. http://www.hatborolofts.com/photos.html http://wmlofts.com
Chris April 30, 2013 at 04:08 PM
If we were looking at the redevelopment of a few of the dated apartment complexes in town, I think these examples have merit as we already have a number of rental units that theoretically could or should be appealing to NYC commuters, but are not. Reusing factories really isn’t that successful outside of cities in New Jersey, and marginally successful in New Jersey cities. I think a paradigm shift in the thinking of the Rug Mill use is overdue, and once one sees it from that perspective the location of Borough Hall is inconsequential . It then boils down to what costs less money. As for comparisons of the Mill, I think we can look just a few miles away in Helmetta for a more appropriate comparison of what would more likely take shape at the Mill under the old mindset of reusing the structure. The similarities are frightening! See the second post below.
Chris April 30, 2013 at 04:09 PM
"The original redevelopment plan called for construction of 225 age-restricted housing units, as well as a 3,000-square-foot civic building that would be donated to the borough. But Kaplan sued Helmetta in 2010 after the borough’s planning board rejected the developer’s application to convert the project to non-age-restricted rental units. Jason Kaplan, president of Kaplan Cos., said after his company settled last year with Helmetta to allow 200 non-age-restricted units to be built, Spotswood filed suit against his company and Helmetta." But Spotswood Mayor Tom Barlow wasn’t so happy. "It’s making the best of a bad situation," Barlow said of the settlement. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/07/helmetta_mill_set_to_produce_h.html
Lee Stults April 30, 2013 at 06:07 PM
The legal wranglings with the Helmetta project have been unfortunate, and while I agree there are some similarities to our town, I believe there are even more differences. To begin with, our mill is closer to the NJ Turnpike, the Northeast Rail Corridor and Route 1, thus providing for greater connectivity to more jobs. Secondly, our mill is located along a brook and across from a park that could each be revitalized to benefit both mill residents and the town as a whole. Thirdly, our mill is in walking distance of our business district which would benefit from more foot traffic. Lastly, the scale of our mill is more manageable in terms of the configuration of the buildings. Perhaps we need to look at only re-using the brick portion as it is the most architecturally significant. The spaces that can be created using the brick building can easily attract a specific young professional/empty nester population. With regard to the Borough Hall, I am concerned that building a 'modular' building that is both flood-proof and architecturally sympathetic to our quaint downtown is simply not possible with the funding available from the insurance company and the taxpayers. Of course that can't be proven until an actual design is done.
Eugene E Sarafin April 30, 2013 at 07:44 PM
With the Borough Clerk's certification of the petition for referendum on Ordinance 2012-6 there is little choice for the Borough Council to make. In fact they will join the local Indian tribe that was part of the Lenape Nation called the Fugary tribe that encamped on the present Borough Hall site. So you may ask where the Fugary along with council and discover it is a good question for them to answer.
Torry Watkins April 30, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Taken as a whole, the comments of JPeters, here and in the WHH, comprise the most articulate, constructive, and valid assessment of Hightstown's situation that I have ever seen. I certainly share his general conclusion that Hightstown is past the point of sustainability as a stand-alone community, and that immediate steps need to be taken to bring about a consolidation with EWT. We citizens need to start the ball rolling, as the initiative is highly unlikely to come from our elected officials. State Law does provide for more than one route to consolidation. To learn more, I urge everyone to visit the web site of Courage To Connect at www.couragetoconnectnj.org. This organization is holding a conference in Princeton on the morning of June 5. For a nominal fee, the public can learn, step by step, how Princeton did it, and acquire the basic blueprints for replicating their experience in our community.
Torry Watkins April 30, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Careful, Mr. Peters. The "Jason Taylor" proposal springs full-blown from one of our residents' heads about once a year, and is not serious. This is the same resident who annually proposes filling in Peddie Lake for a high rise office building. Think about it. Unless one wants deliberately to destroy an 18th Century town with only five through streets in and out of it, why else propose a commuter parking facility?
terribly tired of this April 30, 2013 at 10:20 PM
And Michael's transportation is picking up and dropping off people all over town. What's that all about?
terribly tired of this May 01, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Why can't the Mill be changed from urban blight into a beautiful park with Rocky Brook running through it? Why can't we use this as a golden opportunity to turn our town 360 degrees in a new direction? What's happening now surely isn't working. Same old needs to change. So much wasted energy. C'mon old folks, let go.
Eugene E Sarafin May 01, 2013 at 02:18 AM
For $750,000 we can hire a demolishion firm to clear the area once we pay $950,000 to, own the property. The brick can be ground to form the red clay use on European Tennis courts. The steel can be recycled. The wood from the floors could ground and made into fire logs. We should buy the mill.
Jeff Peters May 01, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Mr. Watkins, you make a good point about the need to be careful about increased wear and tear caused by bus traffic. If I had a magic wand, I would place a park and ride in a location where buses could be restricted to a specific route in and out that didn't involve winding through downtown (which the Coach and Academy buses already do, of course - wouldn't it be nice to end that?). Maybe that's on the Rt 33 corridor section of Mercer (lots of property for sale, after all) and from there the buses are routed onto 130, onto the 133 Bypass by Shop Rite and over to Exit 8 to head to NY or Philly. Maybe the magic wand could also motivate our Borough leadership to reach out to bus companies and pitch them on the idea of investing in a hub here that wouldn't cause too much disruption. I really do believe that adding a direct link for commuting will drive property values higher for all of us. Connecting directly to hot job markets is worth exploring, in my opinion. Food for thought regardless.
Jeff Peters May 01, 2013 at 03:02 AM
There is money to be made in reclaimed salvaged building materials. Vintage hardwood flooring can likely be sold off the developers who use those materials in new finishings. Same for brick. And speaking of tennis, the racquet sports facility that opened a few years ago in Monroe is always packed and hard to get court time in. Maybe our town leaders could reach out to the owners to see if they might want to open an annex here on the Mill site. If not them, then identify others. Wouldn't it be nice to see hungry athletes walking from there to Main Street to grab a bite? Maybe that increased traffic would allow more Hightstown businesses to flourish. That's just on of many feasible ideas out there. We just need to break the inertia and get something done!
B.Bennett May 01, 2013 at 10:04 AM
Many of these are good ideas however you are talking about Hightstown that never gets anything completed....it is nice to dream and let's get back to finding a place for the town employees and a borough hall....
Great Potential May 01, 2013 at 01:14 PM
Again the irony. This petition has put up a roadblock to create inertia and prevent anything from getting done. You can't win in this town.
Great Potential May 01, 2013 at 01:16 PM
More apartments at the Mill is a great idea. Good thinking!
Great Potential May 01, 2013 at 01:18 PM
I think apartments at the Mill is an even better idea! We could call them Windsor Castle South.
Eugene E Sarafin May 01, 2013 at 03:17 PM
The petition created the inertia of new ideas, thoughtfulness, insight, and creativity. It stopped the path to a disaster that only four council member imbeciles could pursue based on a FEMA 2010 flood plain map that stated Borough Hall is in a 500 year flood plain when three major floods have occurred in the past seventy years. Their beliefs counter the facts and they pursue these same falsehoods in decision making as to the location of Borough Hall and the need to rebuild the structure. Better to have the ideas of citizens explored then rely on elected council members who do not want to explore any ideas or alternative.
Jeff Peters May 01, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Those of us who support the petition firmly believe that the Council's plan to rebuild the same facility in the same location will serve as an impediment to new ideas and changes that would help us. Inertia works two ways. There is negative inertia (a boulder has tons of it and it takes a lot of force to dislodge) and there is positive inertia (an avalanche has a ton of that and it is hard to stop). The Borough Hall plan that we are trying to stop would be a boulder which Hightstown doesn't have the power/force to dislodge. We want to avoid dropping that boulder in place so that the avalanche of new ideas and forward-thinking solutions will have a clear path. You can see that there are a lot of us in town who are excited about exploring new approaches to the town's problems. I hope Council sees that as well and can be equally inspired. Yes, this petition freezes things in place until November. That is a small price to pay for opening up flexibility and real solutions to our Borough's challenges. Let's leave the past behind us and focus on the newness of the future.
B.Bennett May 01, 2013 at 09:00 PM
THEN GET SOMETHING DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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