Politicos debate tabling

of Rt. 33 redevelopment
Democrat claims

Staff Writer

of Rt. 33 redevelopment

Democrat claims

GOP’s move was

politically motivated


Staff Writer

The Republican majority Howell Township Coun-cil’s decision last month to shelve the public airing of the Route 33 redevelopment study was a political move, according to Barbara Dixel, the Democratic candidate for council in the Nov. 2 election.

A Republican councilman disputed that claim.

Dixel, who is challenging Republican Councilwoman Cynthia Schomaker for a four-year term, said the council members’ decision not to pursue a program they have been championing since they took office almost two years ago was made to counter a vocal opposition to the proposal that erupted when it was introduced earlier this summer.

"They tabled it because there was too much heat, too much controversy. They want it to die down by the election," Dixel said.

The Route 33 redevelopment study was a report prepared by the township planner that examined all of the properties lining Howell’s Route 33 corridor between the Freehold Township and Wall Township borders with an eye toward eliminating eyesores and attracting new light industrial, corporate and commercial ratables.

Late last month Schomaker suggested that the council should put aside all discussion of the Route 33 redevelopment study until Howell’s master plan is completed and adopted. Schomaker did not answer a request for comment for this story.

When the Route 33 study was introduced it drew a curious and contentious crowd from among those who live and work on the identified sites who feared the prospect of having their property condemned by the redevelopment authority (the council) to advance the plan.

No formal hearing on the redevelopment plan was ever held and the council never took the forming step of declaring itself the redevelopment authority.

Dixel said the council should leave Route 33 alone and turn its energies to the dormant potential she said lies along Route 9.

"An authority is not needed. Route 33 is developing all by it­self," she said.

Dixel said she is afraid the in­stallation of sewers along Route 33 that would be needed to sustain commercial development would not only impact the Route 33 resi­dents financially, since they would be forced to tie-in, it would also open the area to residential devel­opment.

Democrat Steve Farkas, who is running against Republican Councilman Joseph DiBella and independent candidate James Garvey for a four-year term as mayor, did not ascribe the council’s tabling of the redevelopment issue to politics, but does agree with Dixel about where the focus of Howell’s commercial development should turn.

"I am surprised but happy they tabled it and finally came to the realization we don’t need a rede­velopment authority for Route 33," he said.

Farkas agreed that Route 33 is developing all by itself, saying, "I’m against [naming] an author­ity to direct the growth of business that has the potential for infring­ing on people’s civil rights. Business owners can sell or expand on their own."

Farkas agreed with Dixel that the council should be working for the rehabilitation of Route 9 and addressing the abandoned and available commercial properties that line the highway.

DiBella has been one of the ma­jor proponents of the commercial redevelopment of Route 33. He has stated on many occasions that it is not the council’s intent to condemn any viable, operating business and certainly not to condemn any homeowner’s property.

When the members of the coun­cil backed Schomaker’s suggestion last month to put the Route 33 re­development issue aside for the time being, DiBella said he wanted the opposition to know the members of the governing body were only tabling the proposal pending the adoption of the master plan.

DiBella responded to Dixel’s and Farkas’ statements and said the "reshuffling of priorities" was a temporary one made to accommo­date the adoption of the master plan as Schomaker had suggested.

With regard to the council members turning their focus to more commercial development along Route 9, DiBella said, "Route 9 is a congested area that is a traffic nightmare. If Farkas and Dixel have their way, Route 9 will be­come a parking lot."

In regard to comments about in­stalling sewers along Route 33, DiBella noted that the 1996 sewer plan developed by a Democratic majority council called for a sewer infrastructure along Route 33.

"It demonstrates that Mrs. Dixel is behind on the issues," he said.

DiBella said Dixel and Farkas are against holding public hearings on the Route 33 redevelopment is­sue because they would rather "fear-monger than see a rationale debate of the issue."

"The people of Howell are too smart to be scared or intimidated by people who don’t want to look at the facts," he said. "The facts are there is a process. The redevel­opment of an area is a process of public hearings, public input and participation."

Public hearings on Howell’s master plan are scheduled for Sept. 20, 27 and 30 at 7 p.m. at the mu­nicipal building.