Madison council moves forward on downtown revitalization plans

MADISON – The Borough Council is moving forward on plans to revitalize the downtown business district in the new year.

At its meeting Monday night, Monday, Jan. 11, the council introduced an ordinance waiving construction fees to renovate vacant buildings, and named members of a special committee that will study the downtown area.

Officials said they hope the ordinance, introduced unanimously, will help attract businesses to set up shop in the downtown commercial district. It would apply to renovations to vacant buildings under 5,000 sq. ft. and doesn’t include surcharge fees.

“The Borough Council is seeking to encourage private property owners and their tenants to undertake such projects to promote business and development within the borough,” the proposed ordinance states.

In order to be eligible, a structure must have been vacant for more than 12 months prior to the submission of a permit application. Any commercial property with outstanding property taxes or maintenance violations would not be eligible for the construction fee relief. In introducing the ordinance, Councilwoman Astri Baillie said the fees to be waived would vary from case to case.

The proposed ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, prior to a final vote by the council on its adoption.

Members of the new downtown study committee, first proposed on Dec. 14, were appointed Monday by Mayor Robert Conley.

Council President Ben Wolkowitz said he was “encouraged” by the enthusiasm members have shown in signing up to work on the committee. The group has been given 60 days to come up with a request for a proposal to study the downtown area.

Wolkowitz added that, having already received studies performed for neighboring towns and for Madison a few years ago, the group will be tasked with “figuring out exactly what it is that we need more information about and more analysis.”

The committee’s members include Borough Council members Wolkowitz, Baillie and Robert Landrigan; Downtown Development Commission members Michael Kopas, Russell Stern, and Lisa Ellis, who also is president of the Madison Board of Education; Madison Chamber of Commerce President John Morris and Frank Iannarone, a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors; John Solu of the Madison Historic Preservation Commission, and John Hoover, Melanie Tomaszewski and Melissa Griffie.

The council voted unanimously to confirm Mayor Conley’s appointments to the committee.

Staff Writer Christine Lee can be reached at clee@newjerseyhills.com. Find her on Twitter @Cleespot.

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