Coming off a major upset in November’s township council election, Toms River’s Republican council members appear to be doubling down on efforts to curtail real estate development in North Dover, a key issue during the race where Democrats took three out of four seats up for grabs.
Councilman George Wittmann, who was selected as the council’s vice president Tuesday night, delivered remarks that included several policy proposals aimed at limiting development in the northern portion of the township.
“We heard the voters loud and clear,” said Wittmann, calling on the council to purchase more land in North Dover to preserve as open space.
Wittmann proposed placing a referendum question on the ballot next year to ask voters whether they would be willing to pay a one-cent tax rate increase to fund more open space purchases. He also said the council should consider asking the Toms River Municipal Utilities Authority to conduct a study which will determine whether the township’s sewerage system can handle all of the extra activity that more development would bring.
While the study is being conducted, Wittmann said, there should be a moratorium on approval of any new construction project.
A $40 million investment could preserve 200 or more acres of open space, he said.
The three newcomers – all Democrats – did not comment directly on the plan, but did express frustration with the fact that Mayor Thomas Kelaher, a Republican, did not seek their input while appointing new planning board members following the election.
Bipartisanship is the goal, the governing body’s leader for 2018 said.
“Republicans and Democrats can work together on our most challenging topics,” said Council President Brian Kubiel.