Town of Newton Town Manager Thomas S. Russo, Jr., addresses the group. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Debra J. Millikin, Deputy Town Manager, works with her group. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Mayor Sandra Diglio. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Thomas S. Russo, Jr. explains the vision plan. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Jessica Caldwell, Town Planner. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Stuart Koperweis, Senior Vice President of Millenium Strategies. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Thomas S. Russo, Jr., leads the group. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Stuart Koperweis asks the group questions. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Matt Morris, of J. Caldwell & Associates, LLC., during the breakout session. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Newton Residents And Businesses Tell The Town What They Think About Newton
Saturday, October 27, 2012 • 12:26am
NEWTON, NJ – Town of Newton residents, business owners, town council members, and employees, packed into the town’s municipal building Thursday evening, for one of two Strategic Vision Plan public sessions, to help determine the town’s direction, and current status.
The next public vision session is Saturday, October 27 at 9 a.m.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people in the town, and your interest in what we’re doing,” said Town of Newton Mayor Sandra Diglio. “What is most important is what you think this town should be.”
“We’re looking for your input, to the hits and misses of Newton,” said Town of Newton Town Manager, Thomas S. Russo, Jr. “Obviously, the town has spent a lot of money on visioning, and redevelopment. What we want tonight is an honest assessment, a report card. What we’ve done well. What we haven’t done well.”
Jessica Caldwell, the town’s planner, of J. Caldwell & Associates, LLC. said, “Every opinion is equal and valuable.”
Caldwell said in 2005, the town released its vision plan. Since then, some major redevelopment efforts have been underway. Thorlabs, Meadowbrook Inventions, and The Newton Theatre, were a few named.
“What the town council sees is it’s still not good enough and struggling,” said Caldwell. “They wanted to talk to the broader community to make Newton a better place.”
Stuart Koperweis, Senior Vice President of Millennium Strategies, an economic development firm said, “Newton has a great potential economic growth and revitalization.”
Koperweis was one of the parties that oversaw the vision plan meeting. He said he had seen an article years ago in The New York Times, about Newton’s potential.
During the two-hour event, the audience broke up into five breakout groups, with the mission to answer the five following questions:
· What are your thoughts as to the identity/perception/image of Newton?
· In an ideal setting, what is your overall vision for Newton, in two sentences?
· What would you consider to be realistic possibilities, i.e. small incremental steps?
· If you were to tell someone where you lived, what neighborhood or area would you say you are from? Do you shop in the neighborhood? Why?
· How do you feel about Newton being the home to the County Seat?
The leaders of the groups included: Russo, Caldwell, Koperweis, Town of Newton Deputy Town Manager Debra Millikin, and, J. Caldwell & Associates, LLC. Planning Landscape Architect Matt Morris.
The groups spent time brainstorming, and discussing their answers about their perceptions of Newton, and, suggestions on how to create a better Newton.
“It’s fantastic, I think this is a real good idea, and maybe should be done on a county level,” said Sussex County Freeholder Richard Vohden, who attended part of the event, and listened to the discussions of all the groups. “I’ve heard some real good, original ideas tonight.”
After the answers were collected and recorded during the breakout sessions, the attendees regrouped into the larger group.
In response to the first question, “What are your thoughts as to the identity/perception/image of Newton?” some of the answers included:
· It’s a mixed bag
· Difficult to get around.
· Government, county seat, courthouses.
· “This is center city for Sussex County.”
· “There’s culture here, I think of Newton as a cultural town.”
· “We have a wide variety of socioeconomic groups here.”
· Some buildings are run down.
· Educational center with the college.
· Some don’t think of the college as a part of the town, because it’s so disconnected.
· Many houses of worship.
· Newton High School Turf Athletic Field is an asset.
· “The town has everything I need here.”
· “I spend a lot of time defending Newton to people that don’t know Newton well.”
· Newton is a “dumping ground” for the county, in terms of mental health, and inmates being released, and having nowhere else to go, so staying in town.
· Great architecture.
· Make more of a “destination.”
· Cultural Center.
· No night shopping.
· More help for people on Spring Street.”
In response to the second question, “In an ideal setting, what is your overall vision for Newton, in two sentences?”
· “Charming, clean, and aesthetically pleasing community,” was one sentence.
· “Upscale, artistic, environmentally conscious, more like Morristown,” was another sentence.
· “Make it more like a destination,” was another suggestion, with one resident advocating ways for residents to enjoy lunch or dinner downtown, and to be able to experience more retail, or take in a movie.
· “Hope to be inviting, vibrant destination with residences, and offices.”
· “A safe and vibrant town to work and raise a family.”
In response to the third question, “What would you consider to be realistic possibilities, i.e. small incremental steps?”
· Enforce property maintenance codes to make it safe.
· Make it clean, some of them [landlords, tenants, homeowners] don’t care, or they’ll get a summons.
· Upgrade the demographics on Spring Street.
· Make Spring Street a one-way street, and have parking diagonal, to increase spaces; close Spring Street entirely, to make it a pedestrian area.
· If you want people to come, give them an incentive, such as free parking.
· Bike paths.
· A bookstore on Spring Street.
· Get rid of Spring Street Liquors.
· Observe the absentee landlords.
In response to the fourth question, “If you were to tell someone where you lived, what neighborhood or area would you say you are from? Do you shop in the neighborhood? Why?”
· Need more diverse shopping, not enough stores.
· Need to update the murals painted on the former Bula Restaurant windows, to make the downtown more appealing, even use that window space to sell advertising.
· “I don’t shop in town much, I’m a Walmart guy, most of my stuff comes from there.”
· “I like the consignment shops.”
· I have no reason to go to Spring Street.”
· “The prices on Spring Street are too high, the selection is too low.”
· Suggested cross-marketing between the theater, and businesses.
· Hayek’s [Market] is expanding, they’re doing great, and are very friendly.”
· Many eat in town, but don’t shop.
· Don’t know where the town starts, and stops.
In response to the fifth question, “How do you feel about Newton being the home to the County Seat?”
· “I think it’s an honor to have the county here.”
· “How many people come out to shop on Spring Street during lunch? County employees don’t want to walk.”
· “Three’s no interaction with those who work in town.”
· “Without the county seat, we’re Sussex Borough.”
· “It brings a lot of traffic to town.”
· “It increases our population to a lot of people.”
· “We fought hard to keep the County Seat.”
· “They are a huge part of why we don’t have a tax base.”
· “Several thousand people [at Sussex County Community College] come to Newton everyday but, rarely come to Spring Street, and Main Street. How do they make their way over here?”
Russo invited the audience back to Saturday’s vision plan event, as well as to the next town council meeting, beginning at 6 p.m., on Monday, November 26, when the findings from the vision plan sessions will be discussed.
“On behalf of the town, your input is valuable, and, thank you for participating,” Russo said.