On Tuesday evening, West Deptford held its monthly planning board meeting at the township municipal building. Normally, that's not news.
But consider that this meeting ended a seven-month drought for the planning board, the body responsible for helping approve new business development in town. Tuesday night marked the first planning board meeting since May.
The number of applications to the board dropped to a new low this year, with only five received in all of 2012—and just one in the past six months. That's down from eight applications in 2011 and 10 in 2010. In 2010 alone, the planning board had six major site plans to consider.
Township Administrator Eric Campo noted that prior to 2008, the number of applications submitted to the board was “very significant.”
"In the last few years we've seen less," he said, "but I wouldn't suggest any precipitous fall in activity."
Scott Kintzing, chair of the planning board, has worked on township planning for 31 years and said there haven't been many other times when he's seen so few applications in any one year.
"It's unbelievably shocking to me," said Kintzing. "We all know that the economy's been challenged for four or five years, but I still think our town has a lot to offer from a development perspective."
Campo also put some of the blame for the decrease in applications on the downtrodden national economy, which has hampered development in many other towns in New Jersey and across the country.
A decrease in applications isn't for lack of planning board effort, Kintzing said. Kintzing, who is ending his current term on the board, said he's proud of the planning board's work, noting that members are caring and as helpful to applicants as possible.
"I don't think efficiency is our major need," said Kintzing. "I just thing we need to advertise out there a bit more and find some applicants who want to set up shop."
Mayor Ray Chintall said the township wants to attract more businesses to fill the vacancies in West Deptford's industrial parks. Filling any empty business space in the township is a main priority, Chintall added.
Campo said that township officials are trying harder to better promote West Deptford as a good place for businesses set up shop. West Deptford's location offers easy access to highways, such as Interstate 295, plus nearby ports and the industrial parks. There is also room for businesses at RiverWinds.
Township officials are meeting with the state's Economic Development Authority to develop strategies on how to bring more businesses into the township.
"We are utilizing various avenues to advertise West Deptford as a viable and attractive place to start (for businesses)," he said.
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