At the beginning of the month, we asked readers "What would you improve in Collingswood in 2013?"
A number of you had some great ideas in the comments section, and rather than just let that brilliance fester in the void, we tracked down Mayor James Maley for a quick Q&A on some of your suggestions. Here's what he had to say.
Is there space for a dog park in Collingswood?
Maley said that in the past he's fielded proposals from residents about dedicating space for a dog park in Knight Park. But he hasn't had "even a small group of folks" trying to do establish a dedicated dog park elsewhere in the borough.
"I have lots of people trying to find more park space for kids, and we struggle with having green space for the athletic programs, so it’s not really been a focus that we have them for our four-legged friends," Maley said.
As to Beth Adams' pitch for "putting it on Cattell Ave in the open space where the entire block of houses were torn down," Maley said "it doesn't seem like a really feasible place.
"The reason we took those houses down is because it floods really bad," he said. "The reason why it is that big open space like that is because it takes on a lot of water."
The water problems in that area are related to an improperly dredged tributary of Newton Creek on the other side of Route 130 that Maley said has even been the subject of proposals from the Army Corps of Engineers. He said any repairs to that site "it’s pretty safe to say" are not going to happen in his lifetime.
"If you build anything there, you’re going to have the same problem you had before," he said.
How about bringing Ethiopian cuisine to Restaurant Row?
With 14 Italian restaurants in town, there's got to be room for a change of pace, right?
That's as may be, the mayor said, but there are no specific plans currently in the works to recruit Ethiopian fare specifically.
"We’re happy to see the other ethnic restaurants open up, but we really have not targeted that as a major catalyst for the avenue right now," Maley said, citing the openings of Indiya and Akira in the summer and winter of 2012, respectively, as evidence that Collingswood can support a variety of cultural cuisines.
Does Collingswood need a light trespass ordinance?
At the December meeting of the borough commissioners, resident Suzanne Cloud pitched the borough on the idea of drafting a "light trespass law" to help cut down on some of the mega-watt lightbulbs she says are abrasive in the borough.
"I don’t know if you have neighbors who a cricket walks across the lawn and all of a sudden flood lights are on for 10 minutes," Cloud told commissioners at that meeting. "If somebody’s motion lights are on for 10 minutes, it’s bathing my whole front yard and side yard in light."
Cloud also brought up the idea in the comments section of the earlier article, but according to Maley, remains "the only person I’ve had complain about it."
Can we get to a general tidying up of properties around town?
Mara Jefferson wrote, "I would like to see the residents of Collingswood take more pride in the appearance of their homes. I do not mean home improvements that are cash prohibitive, but just simple clean up."
Collingswood has a property maintenance task force that meets monthly, Maley said, covering a list of properties with known issues or that could become subject to enforcement fines. Property owners who don’t respond to fix-it requests could become subject to liens if the borough has to effect repairs or maintenance.
But in his opinion, Maley said, he didn't think there was an overall state of disrepair in the town. He even pointed out that on a ride-along with Santa (and Collingswood F.D.) during the holidays he had a rare opportunity to just take in the homes of the borough, and thought they looked "remarkably good."
Still, he said, "If anybody has any specifics, we’ll take a look."
How about even a limited-use liquor license, either in the form of a gastropub or wine bar?
Collingswood works well without a liquor license, Maley said, and although the borough has heard a lot of noise about abandoning its dry past, he's against the idea.
"While I do love stopping off there once in a while, I don’t want a P.J.’s in town," he said. "What we have developed with respect to the restaurants is working very well, and I certainly would not want to do anything to upset that."
Maley recalled that 15 to 20 years ago, when Collingswood was undergoing the beginnings of its redevelopment, "there was a great push by the business association that we had to have liquor licenses." But the maximum number for which the borough could qualify under state statute is three, and as a B.Y.O.B. dining district, he said, Collingswood seems to function a lot better.
Maley did point to recent "loosening of legislation" of New Jersey vineyards being able to sell their wines directly to consumers, and mentioned that two restaurants in Haddon Heights—Kunkel's and Anthony's—are taking advantage of the opportunity to early enthusiasm.
"Something like that, we’ll see," he said. "We don’t have to pass a law for anything like that to happen."
Villa Barone "actually started the process a good 10-plus years ago to take advantage of that," Maley said, but after "some nasty letters in the local paper against it," the restaurant decided not to pursue it.
"I think the mix that we have and the way that it continues to develop, we are far better off with this, in terms of other problems that you can get," Maley said.
But wait! Isn't the real reason that if Collingswood gives up being a dry town, it will forfeit the rights to Knight Park?
"That’s just an old wive’s tale," Maley laughed.
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