Proceed with caution on changes to SERA

The Sayreville Economic Redevelopment Agency has accomplished a good deal for the community in recent years — taking over National Lead, planning for the future of the former Krome nightclub site and a large River Road parcel, for example — but the question has come up as to whether its work could be more open and its processes more inclusive. The answer to that is a matter of interpretation.

Democrats don’t like that Republican Mayor Kennedy O’Brien, a SERA commissioner himself, gets to make all the appointments to the agency. They also say too much SERA business is done behind closed doors. Republicans argue that party affiliation has never been part of the criteria for O’Brien in picking people to serve, and that SERA holds public meetings and offers the community plenty of input opportunities.

While that may very well be true, the addition of representatives from the Borough Council, which after next week will be controlled by the Democrats, can only help to engage more voices in these important redevelopment projects.

Two council members could be added to SERA, bringing its membership to nine, under a bill presented by state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, also the borough’s Democratic party chairman. The bill has been approved by both the Assembly and Senate, and if it is signed by the governor, next year’s council would be free to adopt an ordinance enabling the two appointments.

If this does take place, we would hope that the council does not simply appoint Democrats to SERA just for the sake of appointing Democrats, but would also consider those in the Republican minority. We would applaud the appointment of political figures from both sides of the aisle.

Regardless, the addition of council members would add voices, and hopefully assist with relations and communication between the council and SERA. It also gives a larger share of SERA’s power to the people who were elected by the community they serve.

That said, we also suggest that before making such a move, the council and its attorney thoroughly review any legal ramifications the new setup could have on the review process now underway for the redevelopment of the 400-plus acre National Lead site. Members of the two political parties differ in their views regarding the potential for litigation, and if there is a serious risk, it makes sense to wait until after a redeveloper is officially selected before making any changes.

Otherwise, if done properly, this could be a chance to improve what is already a positive force in town.