2002-05-23 / Front Page
State planners designate Allentown a Village Center Borough will get priority treatment, extra state help
State planners designate Allentown a Village Center
Borough will get priority treatment, extra state help
During a special public meeting of the New Jersey State Planning Commission, held May 15 at the Allentown First Aid Squad Building on Route 526, the Borough of Allentown was officially declared a Village Center.
The announcement by Acting Director Carlos Rodrigues was the culmination of more than a dozen years of effort to receive the center designation.
Part of the application process involved demonstrating that Allentown’s master plan would be consistent with the goals of the county master plan and the state master plan, with regard to preserving natural and historical resources.
The state plan centers on a goal of conserving open space and farmland and investing money in towns or centers where natural and historical resources are at risk.
In a February 2001 interview with the Examiner, Ed Fox, a representative of the Planning Assistance Unit of the Office of State Planning, said, "Allentown looks like a natural center."
A petition submitted by the Borough of Allentown was reviewed by the Department of Community Affairs and, according to Rodrigues, found to be generally consistent with the goals and policies of the State Development and Redevelopment Plan (SDRP), satisfying the criteria for an existing Village Center.
The review of the petition was forwarded to the Plan Implementation Committee (PIC) for consideration on April 24.
Following a presentation and discussion with representatives of Allentown, PIC recommended that the Borough of Allentown be designated a Village Center and forwarded the petition to the State Planning Commission.
Some revisions and amendments were made to the Planning and Implementation Agenda submitted by the borough, incorporating PIC recommendations to bring the plans into line with county and state plans.
Items on the Planning Implementation Agenda include, in the transportation portion, the formation of bike access to, and through, Allentown.
Application has been made for grant funds for a pedestrian/bike trail through Heritage Park to Main Street, and borough support has been obtained for a State Bike Route Designation through Allentown as part of the High Point to Cape May Route. In both instances state assistance will come from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Other transportation plans will include bridge replacement, new road resurfacing, a pedestrian trail sponsored by the Allentown Environmental and Recreation Commissions, and a "Downtown Streetscape," supported by the Borough Council and Economic Development Commission. That project is aided by support from the state Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Office of Historic Preservation, and should be approved this summer.
Various projects to improve downtown parking, support agribusiness in the borough, and promote the annual Harvest Festival, are part of the Economic Development portion of the agenda, as is promotion for the inclusion of Allentown in the American Revolution National Heritage Area. In that regard, the borough has passed a resolution supporting the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area, has enlisted the support of the county and state historic planning commissions, and awaits the results of the research, verification and designation process by the US Department of the Interior.
The portion of the plan labeled "Infrastructure" lists sewer plant improvements, road improvements, water plant upgrades, public park improvements and improvements to the downtown area in the forms of landscaping, lighting, benches, etc. The park and downtown area improvements will depend on local volunteer efforts, in conjunction with some assistance from the state departments of environmental protection and transportation.
Cultural Resources, supported by annual funding, include the Allentown Borough Historic Preservation Review Commission, which also has the assistance of the NJDEP and the Monmouth County Historic Society; and the Allentown/Monmouth County Public Library, which provides programs for residents and is supported in part by the Monmouth County Library system.
In addition, the Allentown Historic Preservation Review Commission and the Allentown-Upper Freehold Historical Society present lectures and presentations about the history of the area on an ongoing basis.
Historical Society President John Fabiano expressed an optimistic outlook for the future of Allentown, in light of the Village Center designation, and lauded the efforts of members of the Historical Society as well as other residents, in working toward that goal.
Fabiano commented that he is hopeful that "Village Center designation will help prevent out-of-scale development of the borders of Allentown."