Local candidates speak

| 23 May 2019 | 03:25

The candidates for mayor and Township Council fielded questions from the West Milford Messenger at an editorial roundtable Wednesday.
One of the biggest issues facing the community are the restrictions placed by the Highlands Council.
The candidates acknowledged the challenges imposed by the 15-year-old law that severely restricts the types of businesses that can come into the community in order to protect the watershed, which services some of the bigger cities, including Newark.
The mayoral candidates said that the town needs to collaborate more with the council in order to bring more ratables in.
Signorino said that any solution would have to include working with the Highlands Council more and that he has seen more of a willingness for that from the body in the last several months.
“In the nine years I've been on the governing body, I've not seen the Highlands Council send representatives (to West Milford) as often as they have in the last five or six months,” Signorino said. “I welcome that. Ultimately, it's going to be a collaboration with the state.”
Dale, who presented an economic development plan for the township, which includes a $50,000 grant from the Highlands Council to study the issue, said that it is also important that the study looks at the types of businesses that are needed in the township, and those that can be sustained for the future.
“It is exactly what I've set out to do,” Dale said. “We had a discussion with (the Highlands Council) about the support we need from them. “
Nicholson said the township should work more to becoming a tourist destination, using the natural assets the community has to help the local economy.
“Had we started this (recreation and tourism) program years ago, we would be in a much better situation,” Nicholson said. “West Milford was founded on tourism, it's what we did best.”

The candidates for council also shared their ideas about the issue.
Goodsir said the Highlands Act is not good for the township, and that the community should look to working with the cities like Newark to add ratables out on Route 23.
Gross said the act is both good and bad for the town.
“They didn't anticipate the loss in tax revenues,” Gross said.
He said the town should look more at how property is zoned, and work on the problem that way.
“Multi-use zoning would not only help developers, but business owners,” he said. “I think we have to put West Milford first.”
McGuinness said the act “definitely impacts West Milford,” and should be reevaluated by the state.
“We need to review the businesses we have in town,” he said. “We need to attack the state. Make the state accountable.”
The candidates also answered questions about roads, keeping businesses in town, possible Airbnb regulations, and what they thought about geese population management on Greenwood Lake.
Incumbent Republican Mayor Michele Dale is running against Republican Lou Signorino in the GOP primary on June 4.
Democratic mayoral candidate Robert Nicholson is unopposed in the primary and will face either Dale or Signorino in the November general election.
In the council race, Republicans Warren Gross and Kevin Goodsir are opposing fellow Republicans, incumbent Councilman Peter McGuinness and challenger Steven Castronova in the primary.
Castronova could not attend the forum due to a work emergency.
Editorial staff members, Publisher Jeanne Straus, West Milford Messenger Managing Editor Charles Kim, Managing Editor Pam Chergotis, Reporter Nicole Wells and Community Event Coordinator Amanda Thomas took part in the event, which was broadcast live through the paper's Facebook page.
A video of the entire forum is available on the West Milford Messenger web page at www.westmilfordmessenger.com.
The state's primary election will take place on Tuesday, June 4 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.