Column as submitted by Councilman Jeff Carr:
Development within Toms River Township is an ongoing and ever changing process. Applicants, whether they are residents or commercial property owners, typically appear before either the Planning Board or Zoning Board to obtain approval. Approvals range from simple applications for decks, pools and additions up to major shopping centers and commercial developments.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board are guided by the Municipal Land Use Law, the Township Master Plan and the Township Land Use Ordinances. Changes to the Land Use ordinances are often required to reflect changes to development policy, modify zoning, or to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Township by implementing changes to the design requirements.
Changes to the land use ordinances often start with a review by the Planning Board. Once the changes are approved by the Planning Board, their recommendation is then sent on to the Council for review and approval. In some cases, land use ordinance changes are originated by the Council. They are then sent to the Planning Board for review before returning to the Council for adoption.
Regardless of how the changes are originated, the guidance of our Township Planner, Jay Lynch, P.P. is always sought. The Township has a land use sub-committee which is made up of representatives from the Town Council and our Department of Land Development and Engineering. When a request for change is made, it is often referred to the Land Use Committee where it is reviewed and researched prior to any action being taken.
Changes that are currently being reviewed by the Land Use Committee include changes to the Township’s sign Ordinance. In particular, as it relates to the Downtown Business Improvement District. Often times, special areas need special attention to control development. In this case, the Council Land Use Committee worked closely with the Toms River Downtown Business Improvement District to develop a set of guidelines for the installation of signs within this special district. Several meetings were held with the Council Land Use sub-committee, the Township Planner and local businesses which represent the interests of the Downtown Business district. Working together, a set of sign requirements were developed which will become a part of the Townships’ sign ordinance under Ordinance 4354-12.
Currently the Land Use Sub-Committee is reviewing the entire Township Land Development Ordinance. This is a process that has been ongoing for approximately two years. It is a rigorous process that involves a detailed review of every section of the ordinance. Many of the changes that will be recommended for approval by the Council involve administrative changes and clarifications to simplify the use of the document by applicants and implementation by the Planning and Zoning Boards as well as the Zoning and Building Departments.
Another area of involvement by the Council Land Use Sub-Committee involves the review and implementation of a Downtown Improvement District. There are many opportunities to improve the downtown area to revitalize the businesses and downtown community to the vibrant and profitable area it once was. This could include improvements to parking, pedestrian circulation, traffic circulation improvements and cultural improvements. Besides the many benefits an improved downtown area could bring to the Township, one important one would be increased ratables to the Township. While there are many concerns and obstacles to address, the Council Land Use Sub-committee continues to work with our planning department and local downtown businesses to improve the downtown area of the Township.
The actions taken by the Council at our Township meetings are often the result of a lot of time and effort put forth well in advance of any action taken. The Land Use Sub-Committee is only one of the many Committees each Council member serves on. Working with local business, township residents, outside agencies and Township staff are often the precursor to many of the action items that appear on the Council’s agenda each meeting. Sub Committees are an important part of being able to serve the interests of the Township and its residents.
Toms River Township Council