BERKELEY – Election candidates discussed development, and its impact on taxes, in advance of the upcoming election.
The four ward candidates are up for grabs this year. The township is split up into four wards, and each one has a representative on the Township Council. A questionnaire was prepared for candidates, but not all of them were able to be reached. And of those who were reached, not all of them responded.
Incumbent Republican James Byrnes is being challenged by Democrat Lynn Hansen in Ward 1.
Byrnes has been on the council since 2012. He was previously on the Berkeley Township Board of Education, serving as its president at one time. He is a member of the Ocean County Construction Board of Appeals and the former vice president of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 2018. He is a Vietnam veteran, who received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was the facilities manager for Freehold Regional Schools.
Hansen is a bookkeeper and office manager for her husband’s company, H. Hansen and Sons Plumbing and Heating, Inc. She previously worked as a logistics manager for the Communications Electronics Command located at Fort Monmouth. She is currently attending OCC for Health Information Management related employment in the future.
She was a member of the Berkeley Township Zoning Board of Adjustment from 2005-2011. She also ran for this seat in 2012, losing to Byrnes.
She was a secretary for the H&M Potter Elementary School Parent Teachers Association from 2006-2009. She is a member of the Central Regional PTA and was a volunteer assistant coach for the Berkeley Township Soccer Association from 2009-2011.
“We have many abandoned homes and property in Bayville since Superstorm Sandy and
with the recession. Many of these homes are just down the road from where I live. These
homes are eyesores and potentially dangerous to the health of our citizens,” she said. “I propose the town purchase the land, at fair market value, and then sell the land or auction it to reimburse the cost of the purchase. The town did this in the past when some areas were re-zoned and lot size requirements were changed. Some properties became non-buildable lots and were auctioned off.”
“I would like to see the Town Center come to fruition,” she said. “We need and can accommodate more commercial taxable income in this town. I would love to see that section of Berkeley become a beautiful shopping district in a park like setting, attractive to shoppers near and far.”
Incumbent Republican Angelo Guadagno is being challenged by Democrat Maria Morales in Ward 2.
Guadagno has served as the Ward 2 councilman since 2014. He is a 5th grade teacher at the Berkeley Township Elementary School. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Italian American Club, and the PTA at BTES and Clara B. Worth.
“One of the biggest issues facing our town is attracting businesses to Berkeley,” he said. “The Mayor, the Town Council, and the newly formed Berkeley Township Economic Development Commission are working together aggressively to increase our commercial ratable base along the Route 9 Corridor. We have made great steps forward over the last few years, but we have more work to do.”
While many people have rebuilt since Superstorm Sandy, the township is still down millions of dollars in ratables, he said.
“We have many homes in our township that have not been touched since the storm,” he said. “We are in the process of working towards demolishing them.”
“Our taxes have remained stable three out of the last four years, and in that time we have improved our bond rating two notches to an A+,” he said.
“One of the things I am also proud of is our commitment to improve our infrastructure,” he said. “We have paved numerous roads, improved drainage, and improved township parks.”
Attempts to reach Morales were unsuccessful.
Incumbent Republican Judith Noonan is being challenged by Democrat Gary Clifton in Ward 3.
Noonan has been a councilwoman in Ward 3 since 2010. She is the president of the Holiday City-Silver Ridge Park Coalition and the former president of Silver Ridge Park East. She is a commissioner with the Berkeley Township Housing Authority, and a member of the Emergency Response Team and Ocean County Health Department Medical Reserve Corps.
Attempts to reach Clifton were unsuccessful.
Incumbent Republican Sophia Gingrich is competing with Democrat Donna Walesiewicz.
Gingrich has been the Ward 4 councilwoman since 2014, and is currently its president. She is a member of the Women’s Group, the Holiday City-Silver Ridge Italian American Club, and a former member of the Berkeley Township Board of Education. She was a paraprofessional at St. Luke’s School in Whitestone, N.Y., and is certified as a tax preparer and bookkeeper.
She said she formed a Lake Committee to get the lakes in Holiday City cleaned. She manages the food bank which comes every month for the last four years.
“We are now facing a push to change our age restrictions in the senior community,” she said. Some real estate professionals have petitioned the state to have the age lowered in order for people younger than 55 to be able to buy.
“This is not happening anywhere else in the state. The Sunday paper has ads showing communities all over the state, with buyer restrictions 55+ to buy. This issue needs to be resolved,” she said. “Our attorneys are checking all the legal aspects of the request. We want the public to stay calm, for a request does not mean it will happen.”
Other important priorities are repaving roads, in which several are done every year, and providing recreation for people.
If the ratable base could increase in town, it will help keep the property taxes stable, she said.
Walesiewicz has been a broker/realtor for Crossroads Realty for 10 years. She lives in Holiday City West.
“I would like the seniors to have a larger voice in our government,” she said. “I would like to see council people work closely with the different club houses in the community to make sure we are not missing opportunities to help our seniors.”
Safety is a key issue since she had been the victim of a break-in when she was home and her husband was walking the dogs.
“I chased him out of my home before my husband got back. The police came so quickly and were able to catch the two men involved,” she said. “I was in my late 50s at the time and was so scared. I wonder what an elderly person would do? I want to keep our community safe from the con men or women who prey on the community. I would like to work closely with the police department to address the issues.”
When asked about any community efforts she has been a part of, she told a story about a scholarship that ran for 10 years in northern New Jersey before she moved here.
“I had a very good friend die and leave four children and a husband behind,” she said. “Myself, with permission from her husband, got a few of our high school friends together, and started a scholarship fund in her name.”