Mayoral Candidates Talk Development

Manchester Town Hall (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

  MANCHESTER – Development is a big issue in most Ocean County towns, and Manchester is no different. Both candidates for mayor spoke to The Manchester Times about how to bring in smart development without crowding out residents.

  Mayor Robert Hudak is being challenged by Robert Arace. Manchester’s form of government says that candidates don’t put their affiliation on the ballot, but both of them are Republicans.

Robert Arace

  “Now, more than ever, Manchester needs a team that is going to do the work, come up with innovative solutions, and stop taking “no” for an answer. My first order of business as mayor would be to get to work on helping attract new businesses to our town. My running mate and I have already been talking with the owners of plazas in Whiting who are struggling to fill their vacant storefronts,” Arace said. He is running with Joseph Hankins, a candidate for council.

  “Before we build another dollar store, we need to assess what businesses and services our residents want and need here in town. We need to start thinking outside the box to promote Manchester to businesses that make sense – there has been a cry for new businesses from our residents but I don’t think Town Hall is listening,” he added.

Robert Arace (Photo courtesy Arace Campaign)

  Arace said he and his wife moved to Manchester years ago “because we were looking for the perfect town to raise a family. We both grew up in Ocean County but we felt the overdevelopment encroaching on towns like Toms River and Brick.”

  “We moved to Manchester for its quiet, rural characteristics, a small school system with teachers who care about their students, and to stay close to family. Our town’s strengths come from those elements – elements that are becoming more difficult to find and maintain,” Arace said.

  “Joe and I have a few areas we want to focus on once elected, but one of our priorities is to boost economic development in our town. We’ve been talking with residents from all over town and they consistently have the same concerns – there’re no amenities in town that meet their needs,” he said. “Instead, they have to leave Manchester and spend their hard-earned dollars in surrounding towns for retail and dining. We need to put a greater focus on listening to our residents and improving their quality of life in a way that maintains our rural character.”

  The candidate also has strong feelings about the updating of the township master plan. A master plan is a document where officials decide what every spot of land in township should be – residential, commercial, etc. “Leadership in Manchester has not created a clear vision of our town’s future and as a result, we are overrun with dollar stores and driving away businesses our residents want. Instead of economic revitalization, the Planning Board has focused on approving new housing developments without thinking about how this will impact our town,” Arace said.

Robert Hudak

   “I have managed one of the most successful open space preservation programs in the state. My goal is to bring those priorities here to Manchester by seeking opportunities to purchase undeveloped land, using specially earmarked monies that require the land be permanently preserved,” Hudak said. He is running with Councilwoman Michele Zolezi.

  He said, “as mayor, I am currently managing a revitalization initiative that has the potential of bringing new businesses into our township, especially in the Whiting section of town. Through my business contacts I have reached out to retailers such as Aldi and Lidl and my administration is currently seeking to attract them to our community.”

  “As mayor and a Pine Lake Park resident, it is important that we maintain our quality of life in Manchester Township. One of the best ways of limiting development is by purchasing open space. By using existing open space funds, we can purchase large parcels of property and preserve them forever without increasing taxes,” Hudak said.

  “Last year we used these funds to acquire 25 acres off Ridgeway Road. This property could have potentially resulted in over 50 new homes being developed. Instead, this property is now permanently preserved and free from development,” he said.

Robert Hudak (campaign photo)

  “I have established a Master Plan Review Committee to seek input from our community stakeholders in order to look at new ways to maintain the small-town character of our community, while also balancing the need to attract quality businesses to our commercial corridors.”

  “Attracting businesses to our township is key to our overall success and we need to work hard to attract businesses to both commercial corridors along Route 70 and Route 37 and to the Whiting section. We recently approved several redevelopment projects that will result in new commercial businesses opening in town,” Hudak added.

  He said the goal of our Master Plan Review Committee is to “sit down with business leaders and discuss what we as elected officials need to do to attract businesses to town. We need to update our zoning requirements to allow businesses the opportunity to utilize our existing commercial structures. We also need to include residents in discussion groups to get their thoughts and ideas on what types of business they would like to see in our community.”

  As to development efforts in the community Hudak said, “during my time on the Council and as Mayor, I have sought to use redevelopment as a way of curtailing overdevelopment. Redevelopment law allows the municipality to have more control over what the developer plans. For example, through my efforts, we were able to use redevelopment in a plan to revitalize an area on Route 37 that has long been an eyesore to the community and create a potential tax ratable to the township.”