Each year brings a set of issues that capture the hearts and minds of Maplewoodians. What will stand out in 2013? Here is a round up, by no means complete, of what the town will likely be talking about in the new year.
Residential and commercial development continues at a fast clip, and includes: the Station House 50-unit luxury apartment complex at 125 Dunnell Road set to open this spring; the former Universal Chain site on Burnett Avenue which will be made into 124 apartments and 8 townhomes; the opening of a Deal$ dollar store at the site of the former Wyman Ford dealership on Springfield Avenue, and construction of the much debated 7-Eleven on Parker Avenue across from the high school.
And that's not even to mention what will happen to the site of the township's "crown jewel" property, the Maplewood Post Office when it vacates in November, or who will purchase the currently vacant PSE&G space on Boyden Avenue and Springfield Avenue, a four-acre site that is the township's third-largest ratable.
The town has sought help from consultants to navigate these and other redevelopment issues, including hiring Columbia University’s Urban Design Lab (UDL) for a planning and design study that will outline and identify potential uses for the Post Office site. The township has also hired a consultant to help it attract new businesses to town, in particular to the still struggling retail corridor of Springfield Avenue.
Memorial Park Master Plan
Bids have come in and the township will select a bidder. See RFP here.
Lingering Issues from Hurricane Sandy
The most recent cost estimate to the township for cleanup is $500,000 -- 75% of which the town hopes FEMA will reimburse. Also sure to be discussed this year are what steps the township can take to trim trees and maintain power lines in preparation for the next natural disaster.
Parking, parking, parking
This perennial hot topic was once again in the news recently, as the Township Committee passed an ordinance to eliminate one-hour parking in the Village.
Taxes, taxes, taxes
With the recent reassessment completed, it remains to be seen how it will impact the township’s tax base and whether tax appeals will subside.
Capital budget plan for the South Orange – Maplewood School District, including possibly building a new aquatic center at Columbia High School, the construction of the Maplewood Middle School addition (which will begin soon), and repurposing the Montrose School.
Continuing implementation of the Middle School Transformation including the International Baccalaureate program, at both Maplewood Middle School and South Orange Middle School.
What will be the next controversial topic(s) in the schools? Last year, we had the SOMS student walkout and the bitter brouhaha over the district's cancellation of the Columbia High School "Friday Night Live" comedy sketch performance.
Also, now that the Board of Education has voted to move elections from April to November, extending the term of the current board, it will be interesting to see how that affects the budget process for 2013-14. (In addition, it means we don't have to go through another possibly contentious election for a while.)
There were several high-profile incidents in 2012 that shocked and concerned residents: a double homicide, a brutal attack on an employee at St. Joseph’s Rectory, and continuing issues with crime in the Jacoby street area.
The town will soon hire a new Fire Chief, as Chief Joseph Richardella retires early in 2013.
Chickens, Bees, and...???
It's your turn, Maplewood. What did we leave off our list of hot topics for 2013? Let us know in comments.
Happy New Year!