–A bike path connecting north and south sides of the borough.
–A place for teens to gather after school.
–A focus on the downtown.
–Strategic planning for the town’s future
These were some of the highlights of the vision Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler shared shortly after being sworn into office Tuesday night by Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-18). In her State of the Borough address, delivered after council members recalled the successes of the past year, the mayor urged residents to look at what lies ahead.
“I’d like to talk to you about the future,” she said. “Highland Park is the kind of community where if you want to make something happen, you can.”
Mayor Brill Mittler touched on the recent settlement of litigation brought against the borough under affordable housing regulations. The settlement with developer American Properties, which will allow development of a property on Cleveland Avenue, has been controversial among those residents concerned over the impact of the new growth. She referenced the other development in Highland Park’s future.
“We could see a 12 percent increase in our population by the time these projects are completed” the mayor said, before urging residents to consider the positives of the settlement. “We should not be afraid of growth,. Growth is actually good. It brings more life to our community and increases our tax base.”
The mayor instead stressed preparation for the expected growth. She referenced the recently implemented task force charged with planning for the impact on the schools, community services and infrastructure.
Mayor Brill Mittler also cast a positive light on the future of Highland Park’s business district. With an eye on businesses like OQ Coffee on South Third Avenue and Pino’s Gift Basket Shoppe and Wine Cellar on North Fourth Avenue, she described the downtown as suited toward attracting both young professionals and their empty-nest parents.
“Both age groups have more disposable income, with no children at home, to spend in our stores and restaurants,” she said. “2015 will see us concentrating our efforts on downtown development.”
Other highlights of the mayor’s State of the Borough address included ambitions to develop a cross-borough bike path linking Johnson Park on the north with Donaldson Park on the south, greater resources for teenagers and finding ways to save taxpayers money through efforts to provide shared services with other municipalities, such as the recent animal-control agreement made with Edison.
The mayor ended her address with a call for volunteer effort, urging residents to serve on municipal committees and commissions.