There are several reasons for this change. It is important that the Township balance a need to remain competitive with surrounding communities and their zoning policies while maintaining a reasonable level of protection to our residents that may live in close proximity to a commercial district. All of our commercial districts have seen high ground floor vacancy rates in the double digits, even prior to COVID-19. Sinking commercial property values as a result of these vacancies can have a deleterious impact on the Township’s overall valuation, which can shift the tax burden to residential property owners.
A vibrant business community will add value to the Township. It will also help ensure that our commercial districts remain intact and do not become soft sites. Millburn has a reputation of being less business friendly than our neighbors. This was recently confirmed by a review of our zoning codes throughout the Downtown Area Vision Plan process. It was suggested, as a first step in revitalizing all of Millburn, that restaurants be a permitted use and that other uses continue to expand as we slowly emerge from the public health crisis.
We are not pursuing these changes without consideration of our residents. It is important that certain protections remain, that certain conditions be met that mitigate any impact a new business may have on the residential community and that we have both our residential and commercial owners in mind when proposing such changes.