Liquor License? Dog Park? Patchers' 2013 Wish List Answered

We asked the question, you answered it, and Mayor James Maley weighed in on some of readers' suggested improvements for the borough in 2013.

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 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.

Got a question? Email your friendly neighborhood Patch editor, and we'll get on the case. In the meantime, you can always send us a letter for publication and subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest.

Suzanne Cloud January 16, 2013 at 01:55 PM
Jim Maley can expect some examples of light trespass laws from NJ communities and from across the country on his desk soon. Light pollution is a real problem. I think if a pollster asked folks if they like to see the stars at night whether they'd be upset as they disappear due to light pollution, there would be more complaints. Collingswood housing is dense in places with small backyards and some have blazing lights obliterating the beauty of nighttime. It doesn't have to be this way. Quality of life is important and living constantly in a blaze of artifical light is not healthy, psychologically or physically.
Future Old Angry Italian Guy January 16, 2013 at 02:11 PM
What about that open space on the corner of Frazer and Haddon (across from the library)? It's full of rocks and debris? What's going on with this space? Could we add a fenced in playground or even some trees and benches for a park-like feel in the middle of town?
Jim Angehr January 16, 2013 at 02:21 PM
In Collingswood, I want an Ethiopian restaurant that has a liquor license up front, a dog park in the back, a maintenance program to tidy up the houses all around, and a Shetland pony. Is that too much to ask? (Nice article: cool to turn the wish list into a dialogue, and to have a mayor who seems like a real, regular person.)
TW January 16, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Your saying that when you were riding around on a firetruck at Christmas time you thought the houses looked nice....it's was dark out...anything looks better in the dark. If all residents would walk out of their houses and just pick up the trash everyday, it would be a big improvement..I do. If you can walk out your house to go to work, get the mail, walk to the store to buy cigs, sandwiches or lottery tickets. Then you can pick up your own trash that is in your yard. Also, if everyone cleans the cutters in the street in front of there houses with leaves, sticks, etc...that would be a big improvement as well... one more subject: people who have street drains in front of their homes...if you could keep them clean that would stop some of these streets from flooding. I also think the boro should have them cleaned out every month. Some of them are so full of trash and leaves no wonder the water can't drain into them.
Tom Peters January 16, 2013 at 03:24 PM
I agree that numerous Collingswood homes have high wattage outdoor lighting. Many of these homes use 100 watt bulbs as their front porch lights when a 40 or 60 watt bulb would offer the same level of safety. Then there are those motion activated lights that blaze way too brightly. Most of those are activated by the uncontrolled feral cats population that seems to have overrun our quaint borough. Those wild cats quickly become immune to those lights clicking on when they enter a yard. I don't have outdoor lights tied to a timer so they are only using electricity when I actually need that light. I'm with Suzanne that light pollution is something that we actually reduce quickly and would enhance the quality of life in Collingswood.
Will McGowan January 16, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Somehow i would just like to see the people decide on the direction of things like liquor licenses. I get it that the mayor has inside knowledge on where not to put dog parks due to zoning and flooding but if all we can get is 3 liquor licenses and placing "one or two" in the hands of respectable establishments: like an IN-TOWN...Lumberyard based? "wine" store, would that not actually HELP the BYO's? Let the people decide if they would like a pub or adult gathering place on Haddon Ave? Why does one person get to decide what he thinks is the best direction? Let the people actually have some say? You just can't keep opening restaurants for your economy. FACT: 26% of restaurants fail in their first year; 19% in their second.
Aaron Kuhn January 16, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Suzanne - What has your dialog with your neighbors been like? Have you talked to them about dialing down the sensitivity of the motion sensors? Light pollution is a problem, but implementing additional local governmental rules and regulations on (what exactly?) isn't going to solve the problem. We live in a major metropolitan area and framing this discussion in terms of "solving light pollution" is disingenuous when you're probably really just pissed off about one or two neighbors with overly bright light bulbs/poorly set up lighting. Have a conversation with them? Blackout curtains? Your perceived rights to darkness do not trump the rights of others to illuminate.
David Maynard January 16, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Consider me a vote for a light pollution control ordinance (my wife and I bought cellular blackout shades for all of our upstairs rooms after being able to read in any of the rooms with all lights out at 3am). Additionally an in town dog park would be rather nice. It could be set up much like the Collingswood Community Garden.
Aaron Kuhn January 16, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Unless I've got the address wrong (possible), this appears to be a privately owned property by Yiota Holdings LLC http://tax1.co.monmouth.nj.us/cgi-bin/m4.cgi?district=0412&l02=041200037____00001_________M
Sue Maynard January 16, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Melissa Pizzani-Messimer January 17, 2013 at 12:26 AM
my husband & i have been saying this for years! perfect spot for a fenced in playground. would give the big town a little city feel. but a dog park there would be great too! i would hate to see another italian restaurant build there!
Funky Monkey Banana Junkie January 17, 2013 at 12:28 AM
What about an artisanal brew pub that only serves its own products? With some Ethiopian tapas. And a dog park out back.
bsdtktr January 17, 2013 at 01:05 AM
Dang, Will, you beat me to it re: actually letting "the people decide" on a wide range of issues ! But Santa might only give the same gift to two if we remind him of some of the particular issues: Choice Issue 1. Liquor license issue – Absolutely good points, Will ! We could actually get 3 bar/restaurant type and one merchant (liquor store) type licenses - I'm fine if 50.1% of my neighbors say 'no' , vs. the Mayor's Diktat; Re: his contention of “mix” , uh, we don’t have a mix, we only have byo (which are great btw). That’s the point. Choice Issue 2. I’m too late, but NOT having Mayor Bean take citizens to court to deny them the right of referendum re: a 25 year tax giveaway to a favored developer would have been real nice present Choice Issue 3: there was supposed to be a public poll on sculpture selection, but “it was decided” not to do it…. Even such a trivial thing is kept in Mayor Bean’s Imperial Court, can’t let the peasants have a say.
Giovanni Gino Caffarella January 17, 2013 at 01:12 AM
It really is a big issue with the liqueur license. In a way I can see the point of not having it, and man I am telling you I am a BIG craft beer geek(No I do not like PJ's because it is too sporty) and do I ever wish Tom Peters would have a Monk's Cafe here! But even though I see that no ONE man should decide this, I am not selfish in the matter. I believe most people are worried about bringing in stranglers and trouble makers. Simple: just make it a higher end place that caters to the fine beer/wine, liqueur lovers and we should be fine. Remember, Collingswood has been known as a Christian town, and it is my belief this has influenced the decisions to keep it dry.
bsdtktr January 17, 2013 at 01:18 AM
More 2013 Present Wishes: 2. Re: Dog Park - someone point out to the Mayor that a dog park does not require one to "build anything there" aside from maybe fencing, so the flooding is really a non-issue except for dog owners who don't want muddy dogs. Dog Park would be great, wherever.(shortage of green space for kids in town? seriously? cooper river park on north, newton creek park on south, and 63 acres of Knights Park - with loads of non- or under-utilized space other than athletic fields...) 3. Have drivers actually pay attention to stop signs 4. A new supermarket (or hopefully a revamped, improved something to replace Ackamee) 5. Will McG. to run for mayor
Giovanni Gino Caffarella January 17, 2013 at 03:33 AM
Number three is HUGE for me since I walk and ride my bike EVERY where! But ya know, it seems like people just zip right through with no care or respect of the people who live here and do exactly what I do!
Porterincollingswood January 17, 2013 at 12:47 PM
How about dog licenses and a liquor park? And pool hours that make sense.
Linda A. January 17, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Neighbors can be unreasonable when it comes to stuff like this, I've historically found. When you approach them with something like this, they can feel attacked, even if your approach is diplomatic, and not only can a "power struggle" ensue, friendships can be affected, unfortunately. It becomes easier and more businesslike if there is an ordinance in place to which one can refer. That takes the whole potential "battle" out of the mix. People can be funny creatures and can become controlling in such situations. I've seen it happen over wind chimes, of all things. What doesn't bother one person, may bother another. Somebody has to give. One party has to give something up, whether it be the neighbor who dismantles the fixture, or the neighbor who has to tolerate that while trying to enjoy their own backyard at night. I will say that I agree with Suzanne Cloud, b/c in the warm months, we are obliterated with artificial light from 3 neighbors. It doesn't bother them, b/c they rarely sit outside in the evenings. It does bother us, b/c we are out there most nights. Two of these flood lights are on constantly; one is motion sensor. We try not to set it off, but it's kind of hard, when it's pointed in your own backyard, and you have to go inside for something. The stinkin' thing stays on for a good 5 minutes too. My husband actually called the boro about an ordinance for this last month, but the boro contact wasn't in, and I haven't had a chance to pursue it yet. But I want to!
Linda A. January 17, 2013 at 03:31 PM
Oh, I wanted to add that people in general often do not think about how their actions affect others, and some of them really don't care, either. This is why such ordinances get put in place. There are alot of good and reasonable people in this world, but not everyone is that way, unfortunately. I firmly believe that our neighbor with the motion sensor light would not be cooperative if approached. So I've chosen not to aggravate myself by approaching them on this. But I would if I had an ordinance to back me up. It shouldn't take that, but I believe that is what it would take.
redrum January 20, 2013 at 02:07 PM
topped off by a Trader Joes that ROTATES so you get a full 360 degree view of Collingswood AWESOMENESS


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