As I sit at council meetings, I hear, over and over, how much we need sidewalks to connect all our local businesses so residents can walk instead of driving their cars. It has been said sidewalks should begin at the Lincoln Ave. apartments and go to the ShopRite shopping center so seniors living in those apartments can walk. Have any of them even been asked if they would be able to or want to do so?
Yes, it sure sounds good and looks great on paper to have all our businesses connected from ShopRite past both Bearfort shopping areas to the A and P, Sears and the other stores in that area. What about the reality? First, who will bear the cost of this expensive idea? Will it all be from grants or all from our tax dollars? I recall at least one councilman saying he wants a zero tax increase again this year, much easier said than done. As always, there will be the issue of snow and ice removal, which is enough of a problem with the walks we already have as not all store owners live in town.
Towns as Butler, Pompton Lakes, Pequannock, even Franklin Lakes all have sidewalks, but just as West Milford, they also have lots of empty stores. Should our first priority not be to try and find businesses for our empty stores and ones residents actually want and will support regularly? Several people have told me they would like to see a family shoe store, such as Marty's, and a family chain clothing store, just to name two. We surely do not need more banks, pizza places or liquor stores.
Before we even go further with the sidewalks, we need to make sure we will not end up connecting empty stores from one side of town to another. It is known some businesses are just "hanging on" right now and may end up closing their doors, too.
We no longer live in a time, where mothers push baby carriages at their leisure on a sunny day. The fact is everyone has very limited time due to their busy lives and thus resort to driving. I have seen many people not even walk from the Wells Fargo Bank to Shop Rite, but get into their car and drive. Same with driving from Sears to the A and P, instead of leaving the car in its original spot.
Why has the Economic Development Committee not polled residents about finding tenants for the empty stores? Their only focus seems to be recreation to bring in people from elsewhere. I well recall Jungle Habitat and the traffic chaos it caused, making it impossible to get from my Germantown Road home onto Macopin, not to mention the awful trail of roadside trash. The air show and boat races are great and are manageable, same with car shows.
Before we get carried away with the sidewalk and recreation ideas, stop and think about the end results. I am not against recreation for our town residents of all ages, as the pump track, ice rink, hockey rink, etc., nor am I against sidewalks. What all residents should be informed of is how all of these projects will affect our property taxes at a time when people still want no increase. I would hope any such projects would not come from reducing any vital town services or from reducing any town employee jobs, as most live in town and pay taxes too. Plus, we do need at least one more police officer as well as getting SROs back into our schools. None of this is political, nor should it be made so.
Step back and think before jumping into projects we know are not affordable nor viable. Sidewalks to empty stores and a zero tax increase just do not seem to be compatible.
Eleanor Monahan West Milford