Keyport stakeholders needed for planning committee

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A citizen participation group, which will serve as a planning committee to develop project proposals for submission to the state Neighborhood Preservation Program (NPP), will be formed in Keyport.

On May 7, Business Administrator Stephen Gallo said the NPP “targets threatened but viable neighborhoods where the department of community affairs resources can be leveraged to create momentum.”

According to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, threatened yet viable neighborhoods are defined as “neighborhoods beginning to decline that can be rehabilitated and restored by cultivating existing social, economic, financial, and technical resources.”

Keyport is one of three municipalities in Monmouth County that is eligible for grant funding toward the preservation program, Gallo said. The other two municipalities are

Awards up to $100,000 could be granted to municipalities on an annual basis for three to five years to support the program, according to the Department of Community Affairs.

The multi-year grant program focuses on several strategies and is driven by census tract, Gallo said, adding that “several neighborhoods in Keyport fit the bill.”

He said various low-to-moderate income properties in town have been identified for rehabilitation.

“We are considering focusing on properties that abut Route 36 and 35, as well as industrial properties that have gone to moth balls on Clark Street,” Gallo said. “… We would like to see a plan to incentivize redevelopment along the (Route 36) corridor that would be related to tourism.”

According to the Department of Community Affairs, the following criteria are used in evaluating applications for NPP: has the municipality demonstrated an understanding of local needs and considered how the program would address those needs; has the municipality identified neighborhood income mix, especially the proportion of low- and moderate-income residents; neighborhood size and extent of problems; has the municipality demonstrated commitment to neighborhood preservation by the public and private partnership.

Residents and stakeholders in Keyport are welcome to serve on the citizen participation group to develop a preservation plan, Gallo said. Volunteers will receive training assistance from the Department of Community Affairs.

“The planning phase occurs during the first six months of an 18-month grant period and involves the activities leading up to our grant submission. Then, the NNP plan would be a comprehensive strategy for neighborhood revitalization and cover up to five years of implementation,” Gallo said.

Jack Straub, President of the Keyport Bayfront Business Cooperative, revealed that appearance of the business corridor located at Route 35 and Route 36 needs work.

“Anyone coming into town, as beautiful as the water front is, some of what (visitors) see along Route 35 and Route 36 just isn’t very inviting,” Straub said.

He explained that rehabilitating the buildings along Route 35 and 36 could entice motorists passing through town to stop and visit businesses in the borough.

Councilman Dennis Fotopoulos asked Gallo if incentivizing new business in Keyport is part of the NPP agenda. Gallo answered “yes.”

He then asked, “can we look into getting more day time businesses to be consumers of the businesses downtown.”

“Foot traffic certainly supports business,” Gallo continued. “… Yeah, if we can get some kind of business incubator and employees in proximity to business, that’s good.”

Councilwoman Delia Sosa McDermott said the planning committee should include citizens from each area of town.

That evening, residents Andrew Kelsey, Michael Lane, and Elmer Graham Jr. volunteered to serve on the borough’s new planning committee.