Economic development philosophies clashed Monday night when Mayor Ben Young and Deputy Mayor Anthony Minniti debated the perceived pros and cons of the township’s new design standards for the redevelopment zone.
Young argued the standards—which following Monday’s vote will be applied to all businesses in the redevelopment zones along Route 130—could be onerous to existing businesses, potentially forcing them to “fit a square peg into a round hole.”
“In most cases, since there are existing conditions, this isn’t either practical or feasible. When conditions don’t work, a need for variances, or at a minimum waivers, must be requested by the applicant,” he said. “We currently are not viewed as business friendly by the business community. This action is not going to do anything to improve that relationship.”
Young noted that the township has applied the same standards in other, successful redevelopment efforts—Merion Caterers, the Shoppes at Cinnaminson—but in those instances the development began with a “blank slate,” he said, and the standards “made sense since we were virtually starting from scratch.”
Minniti countered Young’s claims by pointing out that everywhere the township has imposed redevelopment standards, it’s had success—and by noting the lack of development that occurred before the standards existed.
“If this is business unfriendly, where was the rush of business in 1980, in 1990, when there was nothing here?” Minniti said. “The irony is, for all the disincentive that this would appear to have (for businesses), everywhere we’ve applied this, we’ve revitalized.”
He pushed back further on the mayor’s business unfriendly assertion by stressing that by imposing standards, the township would attract the type of businesses it wanted—and that every business should be held to the same standard.
“We want in Cinnaminson, and I think we deserve, property owners, business owners, that want to come in and make an investment in the community,” the deputy mayor said. “By applying these types of standards, we’re bringing owners into town who are serious, owners that want to have a quality development. And quality developments attract quality tenants.”
Young worried about the financial implications the new standards could have on existing—or potential—businesses if they’re forced to modify their properties to comply.
“We have been investigating the expansion of our redevelopment zone in order to offer opportunities, including possible incentives to investors who might be interested,” he said. “I submit that when you consider the cost of development under our redevelopment standards that there will be no incentive, but a penalty.”
Committee ultimately adopted the new design standards by a 4-1 vote, with Young providing the lone “no.”
Committee also unanimously approved the planning board’s recommendations for the areas in need of redevelopment, which include most of the properties on the north side of Route 130 from the Shoppes at Cinnaminson to Wynwood Drive. The standards adopted earlier in the meeting will be applied to these areas.