Residents continued to criticize officials and a plan to redevelop commercial areas in town at a council meeting Wednesday.
The multifaceted plan is designed to stabilize the township’s ratable base. The township lost $21 million in tax ratables last year, an amount that Vergano previously said, would only increase this year. It involves rezoning several dying and underutilized areas that are currently zoned for commercial use, especially the Wayne Hills Mall and surrounding properties. They would be rezoned to allow mixed-use buildings to be constructed; the buildings and properties would contain both residential and commercial establishments.
The plan emphasizes building communities with walkways and transit hubs.
The township’s Master Plan would be changed if the plan were approved.
The plan is the brainchild of Mayor Chris Vergano and planning John Szabo. They hope the plan would court developers to build high-end rental units marketed to young professionals.
“Pretty much a majority of the people don’t like what they’ve heard about changing our zoning,” said Gabriel Nazziola. “Perhaps the mayor and the planner have been sung a song by developers who will come here, make a quick buck and run, and they won’t pay a dollar in taxes.”
Officials are hopeful they can get mixed-use luxury rental units to be built on the former State Farm property on Route 23 and in the Mountainview section of town. Residents aren’t too keen on the idea.
“You can’t zone for luxury,” said Monica Voinov. “Where is the line up of people who want to rent a luxury apartment?”
Residents have said that the 1,000 to 2,000 housing units the plan calls for to be built is too many. Vergano and Szabo, citing a study conducted by the Wayne Public School District, argue that the plan would not increase the number of students attending Wayne schools.
“The more families we have here, the more children we’ll have to bring in to our school district,” Voinov said.
Residents have said they want the plan to contain more commercial units and fewer residential properties, especially rentals.
Virginia Toms accused the Economic Development Commission of
not being proactive regarding getting more businesses to come to town.
Residents at previous meetings and on Wednesday stressed that they do not want the plan to change the town’s suburban feel they have come to enjoy.
“I don’t think changing from a suburban to an urban identity will help us,” said Nazziola said.
Vergano said officials would examine all of the comments they previously received.
“I think if we work together we can come up with a plan to increase the ratable base,” Vergano said. “That’s our only goal here.”