Many of the written questions submitted to the candidates by the roughly 40 residents gathered in the borough council chambers focused on efforts and proposals to address downtown vacancies.
Democrats Amy Martin and Sean
Brennan, who are seeking to oust Republican council incumbents Michael O’Hagan
and Mary Jane Surrago, said that boosting commercial tax revenue and
revitalizing the downtown should be a focus of the governing body.
Among their proposals were more downtown events, the formation of a committee to attract new businesses and increased communication with residents and business owners.
“We need to provide more frequent and relevant updates about what’s going on,” Brennan said. “We need to think of Glen Rock as a destination for Glen Rockers and beyond.”
The sitting council members responded that they were already working on plans similar to those proposed by their challengers.
Nevertheless, the incumbents said, the council has been in discussions with the borough planner and chamber of commerce on developing a Glen Rock “app” that would promote local business, and have been exploring ways to revise zoning codes to ease the arrival of new merchants.
“We are also working on re-energizing the business district,” Surrago said. “Vacancies occur, but new businesses are opening.”
The councilwoman noted that municipal revenues, 7 percent of which come from commercial properties, remain
unaffected by vacancies, as landlords shoulder the tax burden.
Martin responded that the tax burden on residential property owners could be eased by exploring other areas for development.
“We need to get creative,” she said. “There’s a few pockets left in Glen Rock that are underutilized.”
The candidates agreed on some issues, like the need for a proposed senior housing complex, and each emphasized their efforts to communicate with and seek input from residents.
But one issue where they clearly diverged was on their approach to a controversial $2.5 million proposal to add turf to Lower Faber Field.
Martin and Brennan said that the council’s role should be in fact-finding and public education, such as addressing concerns that the project could exacerbate flooding, before putting the proposal to a voter referendum.
“The fields have to be addressed, but we need a lot more information,” Martin said.
O’Hagan, a longtime sports coach, said that the poor condition of the field needed to be addressed for multitude of young residents that utilize it. His running mate estimated that the costs of turf would be roughly equal to adding drainage systems and new grass to the field.
The incumbents said that continued efforts to rebuild the borough’s surplus would have to follow through first, but rejected the idea that the council should defer to a referendum.“We’re elected to make tough decisions,” O’Hagan said. “Fifteen hundred kids are on that field, and we need to do something about it.”
The election for the two seats on the Glen Rock Borough Council will be held Nov. 5.