MANCHESTER – Elected officials hope to use 2017 as more opportunity to push for changes to regulations they say are hurting the business economy, and ultimately, taxpayers.
Councilmen Sam Fusaro and James Vaccaro, who began new terms this month as did Charles Frattini, spoke with The Manchester Times after the last 2016 council meeting to size up the year ahead.
They said Manchester faces rules imposed by state agencies that are not as positive as they’d like, whether complying with regulations on how its large parcels of Pinelands can be used, or conditions on the state highways that run through the township, or how the formula for state aid impacts its school district.
“It’s not a fight as much as trying to negotiate with them,” Fusaro said.
“It will be another year of those challenges but we will continue to be proactive, in particular for the stabilization of the tax base for the taxpayer,” Vaccaro said. “You can’t ever stop fighting for the taxpayer.”
The fight is for Manchester to have land use and development rules that are more welcoming to development, in order to increase ratables, they said. There’s also the issue of how the state awards school funding to Manchester, another fight the councilmen said they’ll continue to advocate for as taxpayers stand to benefit.
For an example of development issues, much of Manchester is under both CAFRA and Pinelands land use regulations, requiring both permits for some projects within its borders, something most other towns do not have to contend with, said the councilmen.
Among the ramifications of that, Fusaro said, is the impervious coverage regulations for Manchester, in other words, the percentage of a building plan that can be used for parking lots, for example.
Fusaro said the laws have discouraged supermarkets or other big-box tenants from opening in town, because the parking lot ends up being too small to satisfy the amount of customers.
“We need help bringing in commercial businesses but because of these rules it is difficult,” he said.
He considered some recent changes to land use in the township a success. Those changes on Manchester’s end include rules about how tall a business could be or whether a business could have a drive-through. Before, you couldn’t.
“Fast food restaurants need drive-thrus,” Fusaro said, pointing out how a doughnut chain restaurant that did not have one went out of business in town.
Fusaro said it’s not just about meeting with state officials to work toward change, but also to come up with ideas back at home to ease taxpayer burden. The councilmen said the recent energy aggregation and “shop local” rebate program are examples of that.
“We’ve really been stymied as a result of the state, CAFRA, Pinelands, even the school funding formula,” Vaccaro said. “It will be a challenging year.”