TOMS RIVER-Toms River mayoral candidate Jonathan Petro said the township of Toms River cannot support or sustain the rate of growth after several hi-density housing projects were approved in the North Dover section by the current administration. Petro said the Route 9 corridor in Toms River, which shrinks from two lanes to one in Toms River cannot support the number of units that will be constructed in the coming years, which have already been approved.
Petro made the comments in a town hall meeting with students at Toms River High School east where both candidates for mayor were questioned by the students.
“The infrastructure is not there yet,” Petro said. “With the overdevelopment, particularly in the northern parts of our town, it’s not there yet.”
Petro said Route 9 needs improvements from the state.
“That is a state road, so we need to work with the state to expand Route 9,” he said. “We don’t have that yet…unfortunately some of the buildings and new developments have been approved, unfortunately, the die has been cast…we have to expand the roads to effectively get people where they need to be in our town.”
When it comes to redeveloping downtown, Petro said he would support a plan that brought more business first and residential units later, but opposes his opponent, Maurice Hill’s plan to build massive high density, hi-rise apartment complexes on the waterfront.
“We have empty buildings that need to be filled,” Petro said. “I don’t believe that we can get there and make Downtown Toms River as vibrant of a community as it can be without new businesses, new restaurants and new shops to make it a tourist destination, making sure that at 5 o’clock, when the businesses close, that people stay around for the restaurants and the culture that we have.”
Petro, who also serves as the chairman of the Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce Foundation said he opposes the idea of building 8 to 10 story buildings downtown. In addition to all the infrastructure concerns with those proposed buildings, Petro said the waterfront view for residents is an important resource for the community and those buildings would block views.
He suggested adding a riverwalk along the Toms River similar to the one created years ago in Red Bank, which left a wide open area of riverfront property along the Navesink River as open park space, yet the downtown area that surrounds it continues to boom.
Petro said, of a plan to redevelop Ciba-Geigy that he would not support residential housing on the Superfund site. “We can’t have kids playing there,” he said, but supported a plan to build a massive solar energy farm on the site, as long as it doesn’t disturb the ‘bad areas’ of the site.