Metuchen Development Commission paved way to future

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By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

METUCHEN — The hard work by members of the borough’s Development Commission paved the way for the formation of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance last year.

And members of the Borough Council acknowledged this as they agreed to abolish the Development Commission ordinance at a council meeting on March 6.

“The Development Commission worked diligently for years to help improve Metuchen, but there was no framework and no funding to do what the Metuchen Downtown Alliance [MDA] is doing now so in a sense this ordinance is a testament to their success,” said Councilwoman Allison Inserro.

Councilwoman Dorothy Rasmussen cast the lone vote against abolishing the Development Commission.

During the introduction of the ordinance at a council meeting on Feb. 21, Rasmussen, who had served as council liaison to the Development Commission for six years, said she wanted to acknowledge the members of the Development Commission for their years of service to the Borough of Metuchen.

“During this time, [the Development Commission] tackled projects such as recommending building in the downtown business district, beautifying the train station with funds donated by the Parking Authority, developed a brochure on how to develop business in Metuchen and in 2013 researched several New Jersey communities that have successful Main Street programs and what went into it to make it a success,” she said.

Rasmussen said that research sparked the interest of Mayor Peter Cammarano and the Borough Council and led to the formation of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance.

“The borough is fortunate to have volunteers on its boards with fine credentials,” she said. “The Development Commission was no exception.”

Rasmussen named members of the commission, who came from various backgrounds. Members had served on the commission from two to 22 years.

“I appreciate the time spent from the volunteers to make the community better, and I know it meant time away from their families and juggling schedules,” she said.

Inserro said she had agreed with everything that Rasmussen had said. She said MDA Executive Director Isaac Kremer has said there are task forces of volunteers that carry out the tasks of the MDA.

“I hope that any Development Commission members would consider getting involved in those task forces and keep volunteering and keep working for the borough because their job isn’t done if they don’t want it to be over,” she said.

Rasmussen said all but one of the members on the Development Commission is on the MDA task force.

The MDA, which was approved in May 2016, operates independently as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization formed under the auspices of Main Street, NJ, part of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, sponsoring Main Street America.

The district area, which consists of only commercial businesses and/or commercial businesses with residential units, includes the Metuchen SportsPlex on Durham Avenue down Middlesex Avenue with the new development to Main Street and Amboy Avenue.

Resident Daniel Lebar shared his concerns that the MDA oversees a specific district area whereas the Development Commission oversaw the entire borough.

Cammarano said he does not think any area of the borough fends for itself.

“I think there’s always guidance and expertise, and we try to work with as many property owners from the borough’s perspective through planning and zoning and other areas like that,” he said.