Council’s Downtown Redevelopment Ambitions Hit a Snag, Mayor Admits ‘No Direction’

At a recent Oakland Borough Council meeting, plans for the future redevelopment and rejuvenation of the downtown area took center stage, reflecting the council’s focus on reshaping the borough.

A rigorous discussion was held regarding the differences between “Redevelopment” and “Rehabilitation.” These two processes, although aiming to improve areas in decline or facing abandonment, operate under different sets of criteria and have unique implications. Redevelopment might involve specific parameters like land use, density, and potential relocations, while Rehabilitation doesn’t allow for condemning properties but can utilize ordinances to implement desired changes.

The council also touched upon the relationship between Redevelopment plans and managing obligations under affordable housing regulations (COAH).

However, a lack of clarity seemed to plague the council. Mayor Linda H. Schwager aptly summarized the sentiment, saying, “we don’t have direction.” She stressed that past efforts, although focused on improving the borough, have sometimes led to a confluence of ideas, resulting in confusion.

Council members suggested initiating a working session to return with concrete proposals and provide a clearer roadmap for the borough’s future. They also discussed potential tax implications of development choices, notably the possibility of introducing sewers to attract businesses. A sense of urgency permeated the council’s tone, emphasizing the diverse nature of Oakland’s downtown area.

Beyond redevelopment, other matters were addressed. Mayor Schwager announced the grand opening of the Otts Pavilion at Fredo Park on September 9th, featuring a free concert sponsored by various local organizations. This was closely followed by news of Walmart’s Wellness Day on August 19th, providing free health screenings for residents.

Updates on roadworks projects, especially on Lakeside, Raffle Valley Road, and Franklin Avenue, were provided, with a particular focus on safety concerns around speeding in the Ramapo River Trace area.

The council approved the hiring of four Class III Special Law Enforcement Officers and discussed the challenges of the spotted lanternfly problem. Funds have been made available by the state to address this issue, and a portion is being considered for use in setting up traps.

Andrea Levy, a public participant, proposed a dedicated webpage on the Oakland website for roadwork updates, while also discussing upcoming arts-related events and initiatives, such as the Arts Festival, poetry, and mural contests.

The meeting touched on several other subjects, including gratitude towards the council for approving school liaison officers, the library’s summer reading program, and the Bush Plaza progress. The session concluded with best wishes extended to David Young for a speedy recovery.

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