A Message from Mayor Joanne Minichetti:
Thank You to Our Volunteers: As I am sworn in for a third term, after having served on the council since 2007, I am convinced that our beautiful town is one of the best in which to live and raise a family in Bergen County. We are blessedto have amazing volunteers, who through ingenuity and hard work, make this not just a place to live, but a true community. Thank you to all of our emergency responders, CERT members, our board members and commissioners, coaches, civic and community organizations,school volunteers, scout leaders, historic society members, and everyone else who pitches in to help make a difference. As a long-time volunteer, please know that I value each and every one of you. I consider myself truly fortunate, not only to lead and representour town, but to work side by side with our outstanding community volunteers.
Round Three of NJ Mandated Affordable Housing: The Governing Body has been working diligently to reach a final resolution of NJ’s mandated affordable housing obligation. The demands being placed on towns by the courts and Fair Share Housingare completely unrealistic. Unfortunately, they are also unavoidable. Without a settlement, towns are unprotected from ‘builder’s remedy’ lawsuits – opening them to unlimited development. Some towns have settled for huge housing obligations numbering inhundreds of units, including neighboring towns such as Montvale, Old Tappan and Mahwah, to obtain immunity.
The Borough has agreed to affordable units behind Porcelanosa and on East Crescent, along with 22 units on the One Lake Street site. During negotiations, these units have proven extremely helpful in working towards a final settlement.
Each municipality has been given a choice of settling or going to trial. The two towns that have chosen to litigate as of date have received very unfavorable outcomes. Park Ridge and Englewood Cliffs are currently in court. The judge recently revoked Englewood Cliffs’ temporary immunity from builder’s lawsuits. Upper Saddle River has been assigned the same judge as Englewood Cliffs and has been covered by temporary immunity extended by the judge while we work out a settlement agreement with Fair ShareHousing.
Only thirty towns in the state, with ten towns being in Bergen County, do not have their Round Three obligation settled at this time. Upper Saddle River is one of the last municipalities to settle. We have been engaged in extensive and prolonged negotiationswith the court-appointed Special Master and Fair Share Housing with the goal being to achieve a rational and reasonable outcome. Doing so earns the Borough immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits for a ten – year period called Round Three, years 2015 through 2025. Every ten years, there is an entirely new round with a new obligation.
It is essential that we protect our town from unlimited development. It is evident that going to trial will lead to a higher number of units with locations, numbers and designs that would be out of our control. It is in the best interests of the communitythat we have oversight. After four years of working on this, with mandates to comply with legal requirements, a settlement is close to being reached. The sole purpose of settling is to protect our quality of life and our town’s unique character.
On December 13, 2019, the Court directed the Borough to advise by January 6, 2020 as to whether the case will be settled. Without a settlement, the case will likely move to trial. The settlement, if achieved, will be available on our website, www.usrtoday.org. A special council meeting is scheduled on Monday, January 27th at 8 pm. A public hearing, if there were to be a settlement, would take place at a future Planning Board meeting, which would be well publicized. The settlement will beheard by a judge as well and the public is able to attend the hearing.
NY/NJ Border: The Borough is continuing to monitor Architectural Review Board meetings in both Ramapo and the Village of Airmont for proposed development along our border. The Architectural Review Board is a committee that reviews applicationsfor completion, but does not vote on them, prior to the application moving to the Planning Board. The initial hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, January 15th at 10 a.m. Our professionals will be in attendance. Borough engineers are concluding both impactand traffic as well as storm water and drainage studies in the area. Our attention is solely focused on land use and any potential impact on our residents.
The USRA Coalition: I am delighted to announce that the USRA Coalition, founded in 2017 with a federal grant, has been awarded a Drug Free Community grant in the amount of $125,000 annually for five years, or a total of $625,000.
The mission of the USRA Coalition is to educate and create awareness in the communities of Allendale and Upper Saddle River to prevent and reduce substance abuse and other related health issues. The Coalition has been the sponsorof National Night Out, the Bike Rodeo, Meet a Cop and a wellness program at Northern Highlands as well as providing programming on vaping, opioid abuse, suicide prevention, mental health and talking to your child on difficult subjects. Members of the Coalitionare thrilled to put this funding to good use and will be working with the police departments, boards of health and school administrators for the benefit of our young people.
Road Resurfacing and Grant Monies: The Governing Body is pleased to announce the award of $422,000.00 in grant monies for the resurfacing of Ware and Old Stone Church Road. Old Stone Church was partially resurfaced in one area due to itspoor condition this fall, but the road will be resurfaced in its entirety in the spring. Hidden Glen Road will also be resurfaced with a grant of $205,000.00. These projects will be completed, along with the Lake Road Bridge replacement, with a $500,000.00grant, in the warmer weather. These roads will be in addition to our annual municipal resurfacing. The grant monies will help us to resurface more roadways than otherwise would be possible. We continue to pursuegrant opportunities whenever possible.
Neighboring Community Concerns: Unfortunately, recently there have been horrific and violent attacks on people of the Jewish faith, as well as a shooting in a Christian church. The shooting in Jersey City at a Kosher grocery store and theattack in a rabbi’s home at a Hanukkah party in Monsey were very close to home.
It saddens me to see the violence that is becoming an everyday occurrence. Recently, some USR students drew swastikas on a school bus. It is believed the students were unaware of the symbol’s meaning. Our young people must be taught why this is unacceptable. Words spoken, threats made on social media and symbols of hate are often the first stirrings towards violence. As Americans, we all need to accept each other’s differences – whether they are religious beliefs or cultural norms. Education and communication are instrumental. I participated in a meeting at the school with administrators, parents and leaders of faith to help find a solution. Local mayors will be meeting with religious leaders in Monsey later this month to foster a dialogue in an attempt to avoidfuture violence. Hate and violence have never solved a problem. In fact, they cause many more.
Thank you for your continued support and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year,
Joanne L. Minichetti – Mayor of Upper Saddle River