BRICK – A plan to fill empty storefronts by eliminating township permitting fees has been so successful that the governing body voted to extend the ordinance that was first passed in September 2015.
To participate in the so-called “Empty Storefront Revitalization Program” a storefront has to be vacant for at least a year and has to be under 5,000 square feet.
“It’s to encourage businesses to come to Brick, first of all, and also to occupy vacant storefronts” said Mayor John G. Ducey at the July 11 council meeting.
Ducey said the program has been “very successful,” resulting in most of the smaller vacancies in town being filled due, in part, to the business-friendly ordinance.
He said the administration is still waiting to fill some of the larger storefronts, such as Workout World, Sports Authority and Pathmark.
“What we do is we encourage new businesses to fill vacant commercial space, and we get government out of the picture as far as money. We still do the inspections and the plan review, but we don’t charge any fees,” he said. “All permit fees are waived, and that encourages small businesses.”
The ordinance targets any township-controlled fees for startup businesses, such as permit and inspection fees. The extension would be in effect until December 31, 2018.
During council comments, Councilman Jim Fozman said that perhaps a similar ordinance could apply to abandoned homes in Brick.
“We have a list of abandoned homes that are listed on our township website that’s available to everybody,” he said. “Maybe we should waive the fees for someone who buys an abandoned home and puts it back to the town [tax rolls]; maybe we could waive the fees on that – it’s just a suggestion to look into,” he said.
During public comment, Rob Canfield, who is running as an independent for mayor, said he “thinks what we’re doing for the business in town is great, but what are some other things we’re looking at, maybe in the future, to bring some other businesses in?”
Ducey said there are a number of initiatives, including the “Ask Sean Program,” run by zoning officer Sean Kinneavy, where prospective business owners come in and get a walk-thru on the process of opening a new business in town.
He said potential business owners meet with township staff from the Building, Engineering, Zoning and Planning Departments to review plans beforehand, or “before anyone spends any money going before a board” so they know what the concerns are, including lot size, fire codes, and “all that stuff to be business-friendly.”
A number of businesses have opened or want to open their first New Jersey stores in Brick, Ducey said, including Hardee’s and Quaker State.
“Over the last couple of years we are where places want to open. Over and over again, there’s different ones because we’re business-friendly,” Ducey said.
Some of the new businesses that have taken advantage of the fee-waiving ordinance are Bask Hot Yoga, NAPA Auto Parts, Heads Up Hair Studio, Envy Me Salon, and Sukha Yoga Studio.
The second hearing and public comment on the extension of the Empty Storefront Revitalization Program ordinance will be at the next council meeting on Tuesday, July 25 at 7 p.m.