Candidate statement from Betsy Driver, published October 13, 2018 – www.tapinto.net/towns/flemington-slash-raritan/categories/candidate-statements/articles/moving-flemington-forward
One year ago when I was campaigning for Flemington Borough Council, becoming Mayor was the furthest thing from my mind. In fact, it never even crossed my mind.
In one year on Council, I have worked with my colleagues across the aisle to represent the residents, not a developer and other outside interests. I have put the streaming of Council and Planning Board meetings back on-line with the only cost to the borough for equipment at less than $1,000. It’s a portable system that can stream live from anywhere. The Fire Department has new equipment under my leadership, and their volunteers can get tuition credits if they take classes at a local community college or county technical school.
When I ran for Council, it was because our neighbors told me how problematic the Courthouse Square development was to them. The concerns were not just the expected NIMBY fears, but real concerns from residents throughout the Borough about what a 100 foot tall building encompassing an entire block of our National Historic District would mean to our town. The concerns I heard were about scale, quality of life and continued walkability, and the fact that one developer would have control over such a large section of our Main Street.
Those who worked hard to paint me as the opposition tried to say my concerns – which were the same concerns I heard from our neighbors – were about an old building, or that I was opposed to all redevelopment.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
No one, myself included, is opposed to properly scaled and fitting redevelopment in town. That includes Main Street, the north end at Agway, Cut Glass and, perhaps some day, Liberty Village.
When questioned by residents and stakeholders about their decisions to approve first while hoping the developer will negotiate later, the team of Greiner, Warden, and Hain have rebuffed them, often with disdain and the mayor’s gavel. It was while witnessing this dismissive attitude by the Mayor at council meeting after council meeting that I decided to run for Mayor of Flemington.
As your mayor, I will:
- Continue to encourage the redeveloper to come to the negotiating table by refusing to pass any more approvals. No more approvals without real negotiation on size, scale, and the scope of the project. This includes the current agreements.
- Broker compromise with the Friends group by refusing to further defend the lawsuits in favor of a mutually agreeable settlement in an effort to compromise with them. Even if the borough was to ultimately prevail in the courts on all lawsuits, this could take years and a huge amount of tax dollars. The only way to move any development forward is to find the sweet spot in compromise and settlement. The mayor, having an already adversarial relationship with the plaintiffs, will be unlikely to broker this necessary compromise and the redevelopment will continue to be stymied by court filings.
- Move other Main Street redevelopment forward, restart the Cut Glass redevelopment, and jumpstart Agway redevelopment by working with interested developers to find solutions that work for their investors and the community.
- Improve the quality of life for all residents by encouraging better utilization of our green spaces, seeking grant money for basics like a playground and a dog park, and finding room on our crowded streets for bike lanes.
- Work to keep taxes down by finding cost-efficient avenues for improvements around town and working towards fiscal sustainability. Recently, I was able to obtain a clean energy grant to replace the HVAC systems (and eventually lighting upgrades to LED) saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars. Similar savings through grants can be had in other areas of town if one puts the work into finding them. I will put that work in.
In the past year, the Borough government and the Borough itself have become further divided over the future of our town. Those with serious questions about an oversized development are painted as obstructionists and lemmings. Those pushing for the wholesale destruction of our town refuse to listen to and answer the questions and address the concerns and have effectively sold out our town without considering whether it is best for the residents. They paint our future as hopeless unless we give the developer everything he wants and, when they sense a possible delay, declare they are tired of doing their jobs in representing the best interests of their neighbors. They’ve given up on the residents and on the Borough. Worse, they are the same people who got us in this predicament, and now they are asking you to trust them to get us out of it.
The only way to heal the divide and move forward with redevelopment that fits is to break up the voting block that refuses to negotiate on behalf of the town.
That’s why I am asking for your vote on Nov. 6 to move Flemington Forward. When you cast your ballot, please vote for a better fit for Flemington.
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