MANCHESTER – In what was the start of a new tradition, Township Mayor Robert Arace took to the podium and gave the State of the Township address during a recent council meeting.
The mayor said, “2023 was a year of progress, collaboration and challenges. Environmental stewardship. One of our top priorities has been acquiring and preserving open space in Manchester. Our administration and Open Space Committee dedicated their efforts to search out parcels of land threatened by over development.”
“Through hard work in 2023 Manchester Township with the help of the Ocean County Natural Land Trust has safeguarded more than 113 acres of land from development,” Mayor Arace said. He said the greatest accomplishment in that area was the acquisition “of the Cherry Street property. The 34.5 acre preservation prevented the construction of 96 apartments and as part of the agreement US Homes generously committed to construct three family homes donated to Wounded Warriors (veterans).”
The mayor then turned to the subject of economic development, an issue he said that Manchester has struggled with for several years. “I am thrilled with the transition currently taking place with Manchester Township retail with the successful establishment of Starbucks, Jersey Mike’s, UPS and more has already shown that not only Manchester residents are interested in more retail options but businesses want to come here.”
He said he wanted to see that momentum continue and prospective businesses working with the township’s Economic Development Committee “to create an environment where businesses can thrive. We are actively working to attract new ventures to offset budget obstacles while serving the diverse need of our residents.”
Mayor Arace spoke about the township’s infrastructure and public works department acknowledging there had been some neglect of the township’s water and sewer system. “Substantial efforts have been made to revitalize the infrastructure recognizing the need for a transformative approach through a 10-year comprehensive improvement plan and rate study drafted by the administration and approved by council.”
He said residents will begin to see the revitalization plan in action with focus on the water main project at Buckingham Drive and water meter replacement projects during the year. “Our primary goal is to continue to deliver quality, safe affordable drinking water for all of our residents.”
“In addition to water and sewer improvements we are pleased to announce the reinstatement of annual road maintenance and drainage improvement plan which includes resurfacing efforts for sections of Pineland Park, Roosevelt City and Holly Oaks,” the mayor reported.
He said some of this work will be facilitated through a state grant. A comprehensive plan will be put forward focusing on the most distressed sections of the township’s roads “as we prioritize the upkeep of our infrastructure.”
“Next is emergency services,” the mayor said, noting that significant upgrades had been undertaken last year “that addressed the growing concerns. Key improvements included emergency communication system with upgraded radios, mobile units, and pagers along with an increased maintenance budget for our volunteer fire companies.”
He noted that improvements were also made for police department levels and bolstering police staffing levels. Mayor Arace said these changes were in response to heighted safety measures in our neighborhoods and to keep up with the ever-growing safety needs of our residents.”
Rental units and housing were the next subjects discussed by the mayor. “We’ve made significant changes to the rental inspection processes to ensure safe and better living conditions for our residents,” Mayor Arace said.
“Our landlord registration process has been revamped to have a clear guideline and defined procedure to hold landlords to higher standards. The update includes more rigorous identification and property insurance requirements during the application process and accountability for property owners,” the mayor said.
He also noted that reoccupation procedures were also revamped to ally with “the international property maintenance code and the New Jersey State Housing code. These changes ensure that rental and non-rental units comply with governing codes contributing to improving housing quality in Manchester Township.”
Prior to the mayor’s address, Municipal Clerk Teri Giercyk announced several appointments by the mayor. They included Sandy Drake as a Class II member of the township Planning Board.
Zoning Board of Adjustment appointments included Alternate member Dominick Tedeschi and Alternate II member Gina Georgiano.
The township’s Rent Leveling Board will include Landlord Representatives Diane Oresto as a member and Erich Gordon as an alternate.