Thorlabs Making Plans To Celebrate In Downtown Newton
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 • 12:02am
NEWTON, NJ – Thorlabs has approached the Town of Newton to hold their annual holiday celebration in the town’s downtown area on Friday, December 14, with festivities of about 500 strong anticipated on Newton’s Spring Street. The event would entail closure of Spring Street.
The Spring Street closure was a topic of discussion at Newton’s Town Council Meeting on Monday, October 24.
Town of Newton Town Manager Thomas S. Russo, Jr., initially announced to the council, Thorlabs had requested to use Spring Street for their festivities on December 14, with closure proposed from approximately about 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Employee vehicles would remain at Thorlabs, so downtown parking would not be impacted. Prior to the celebration, the company would hold a kickoff meeting at The Newton Theatre. A “pub crawl” style event was one plan considered, or setting up heated tents for a sit down dinner on the street was another suggestion. All plans were subject to approval of all applicable permits, Russo said, and cancellation could occur in case of inclement weather, without recourse, at the town’s discretion. The closure was requested from The Newton Theatre to Moran Street.
Russo sought discussion, and feedback from the council, and there were concerns at first from some members of the council about some of the details surrounding the event.
“The only problem I have is the closing of the street at 1 p.m. on a Friday,” said mayor Sandra Diglio.
“I don’t understand the need for it, they have a giant parking lot,” said deputy mayor Joseph Ricciardo. “If they’ll have food service it won’t benefit the restaurants. Let’s face it, The Plaza, Andre’s, and Trinity together can’t cater to 500 people in five hours. Most likely they’ll [Thorlabs] have it catered. In the midst of the holiday season, that Friday night will kill business. They’ve got ample space to do this.”
“It’s going to take multiple hours to setup and breakdown,” said councilman E. Kevin Elvidge. “If it’s steered using Newton merchants, and businesses for this event, it’s a tremendous plus. You’re giving an injection to those business owners.”
Councilwoman Kristen Becker said, “It’s not like there’s not been 400 to 500 people on the street. The length of time would probably be the issue with merchants.”
Jill Cross, Thorlabs Human Resources Manager, who was present at the meeting, said, “We were looking at Thorlabs parking lot, but it’s not big enough.”
Cross said part of the issue with Thorlabs’ parking lot, are the large islands in the middle of it, which would present difficulties with two large tents. The company is looking to accommodate the group in a 10,000 square foot area.
“We were only going to use businesses on the street for catering,” Cross added, suggesting a mix of establishments from G&S, and beyond.
“We could do something like a pub crawl, we want to keep people contained,” she said. “We want to have everyone together, and go into restaurants in groups.”
Ricciardo said it would “invite disaster” by not closing the street, even if the company opted to have tents set up in one of the parking lots, and to keep the street open, while employees could go to the establishments in their groups.
Diglio suggested closing the streets from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with the process beginning at 5 p.m. to begin doing so, and, for the company to use the Eastern Plaza Parking Lot, across from The Newton Theatre, to set up the tent.
Becker suggested beginning street closure even earlier, at 4 p.m.
“I’m fully confident the closure could be worked out,” said councilman Daniel Flynn.
“All I ask is people from Thorlabs notify the businesses far in advance,” Ricciardo said.
Russo said he had already reached out to the merchants’ group, and they are in favor of the idea. By the end of the discussion, all members of the council were on board as well.
In other business:
· Russo read two proclamations into the record, for Eagle Scouts Michael Albert Bell, and Marshall Thomas Chudley.
· The next town meeting will start at 6 p.m. on November 26; due to the closure of the municipal building on Election Day on November 6, and, Veterans’ Day on November 12, the meeting on November 26, will be the only one for the month.
· Resident Neil Flaherty inquired about an update on the ban on outdoor water use, and the conservation of water in town overall. “It’s [the spillway] still minus 28, there’s no change,” said Russo. “We’re short over 19 inches of rainfall in Sussex County this year,” said Ricciardo.
· Russo said the town, and Thorlabs, was the recipient of the Leading Public-Private Economic Development Partnership Award, and received the award in Atlantic City, at the New Jersey Governor’s Housing and Economic Development Conference. Elvidge, who was one of the town’s representatives in attendance, said, “I was very proud to represent Newton. It was a well-run event.”
· The tree bank ordinance was a topic of discussion at the most recent meeting, led by planner Jessica Caldwell. Caldwell reworked some of the ordinance’s wording with town attorney, Mark Hontz. There were mixed reactions from the council members, with some concerned how the ordinance could impact residences with the potential to subdivide, and the expense. The ordinance would prevent developers from clearing the lot before the application is approved. An applicant must either replant a tree (with a 50 percent size reduction) or deposit comparable funds into the tree bank at $50 per caliper inch at breast height.