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Resident questions Villages of Gloucester redevelopment process

After months of queries, council’s role is clarified

For the past several months, Gloucester Township resident Denise Coyne has been consistently asking the same questions at council meetings regarding redevelopment plans for the Villages of Gloucester.

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Questions include asking who the stakeholders are, with Coyne defining a stakeholder as “property owners, business owners, key municipal officials and the community,” per emails obtained by The Sun; when stakeholder meetings are held; and how the community would be notified and invited to attend.

These queries have come before council in person, through E-Gov access and through email. At the Sept. 27 council meeting, the crux of the issue was brought to light after a lengthy discussion took place regarding the last question, on how the community would be notified and invited to attend.

Council President Orlando Mercado initially answered that the people involved with planning the project would reach out and notify the community when meetings are held, and that he was not involved in the planning process, so he couldn’t give a more specific answer.

Solicitor David Carlamere later clarified the situation by explaining that the role of government in the planning process was limited, because it is the professionals hired by the township who are responsible for researching an area and putting together a package that the council and planning board can either accept or reject.

“To say you want to be involved or the public wants to be involved, the only way that’s going to happen is when those professionals are walking an area … and studying the area and how it’s progressing, residentially or commercially,” Carlamere explained. “… They communicate with those people in that area and then they put a package together and make the recommendation to the governing or planning board.”

Coyne’s primary argument over the past couple months is that it is important for the community to be actively involved in redevelopment.

“The RFPs (Requests for Proposal) that have been submitted, the proposals and the things they are going to do, I don’t see being done,” she said. “I went to the Village of Gloucester, I spoke to the business owners and people who owned property there, and do you know, not one person told me that anyone from T&M Associates or Triad had spoken to them.”

Councilman Dan Hutchinson said if it’s true that someone is not doing his or her job,  defined as not reaching out to businesses that will be affected by redevelopment,   someone should be held responsible.

In other news;

  • Council read two proclamations. The first recognized Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month, and reflected on how the month began as a heritage week in 1968 and was expanded to 30 days in 1989.
  • The second proclamation recognized September as Child Cancer Awareness Month and named Glendora Elementary School student Morgan Pieczara, a cancer survivor, as the Childhood Cancer Ambassador for 2021
  • Resident Brian Burns asked that signage be put up to designate preserved open space so people know where it will be. He both praised the township’s decision to preserve land as open space, like the Roselin Bridge property, and noted that despite the township’s recent newsletter calling it a “balanced community,” only about 6 percent of the land has been preserved. Mercado responded that Green Acres signs would be requested.
  • Council received several grants it added to the budget, including for drunk driving enforcement, body armor, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, reconstruction of Kelly Driver Road, Safe and Secure and the Municipal Alliance.
  • Council approved permission for the Blackwood Fire Company to conduct its annual Christmas parade on Dec. 4, at 6 p.m.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 7:30 p.m, with a workshop session at 6:30 p.m.

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