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Location: Our Lady of LakeAddress: 22 Lakeside Ave, Verona, 07044Event Date: 05/20/2023Event Time: 11:00 am - 7:00 pmEvent Description:Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Verona, NJ at the Verona Food Truck & Music Festival on Saturday, May 20, 2023. The event takes place at the Our Lady of Lake Parish lot on Montrose Ave. The event starts at 11:00 am and continues until 7:00 pm. Admission is $5, but kids under 5 are fre...
Location: Our Lady of Lake
Address: 22 Lakeside Ave, Verona, 07044
Event Date: 05/20/2023
Event Time: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Verona, NJ at the Verona Food Truck & Music Festival on Saturday, May 20, 2023. The event takes place at the Our Lady of Lake Parish lot on Montrose Ave. The event starts at 11:00 am and continues until 7:00 pm. Admission is $5, but kids under 5 are free. Click here for more information.
The Verona Food Truck & Music Festival features 15 food trucks and music, and is a dog-friendly event. Tickets for this festival are available on-site. Follow Just Jersey Fest on Facebook for event updates and more details.
Every Just Jersey Fest festival is guaranteed to feature over 20 gourmet food trucks per event. In addition, all festivals are kid friendly and many events are dog friendly as well. (It’s best to check with each event for more info about rules regarding pets.) Other benefits of Just Just Fest Events include craft beer, sangria, and margarita bars. Plus, all events feature either a live band performance or a DJ.
Just Jersey Fest does ask guests to bring their own blankets or chairs, as they do not provide seating. Likewise, they do not permit outside food, drinks, or coolers. (Food and refreshments are available for sale at every event.) Finally, Just Jersey Fest asks all attendees to consider bringing a non-perishable canned or boxed item for donation. These donations are provided to local food pantrys.
Allison Kohler is the president of both Just Jersey Fest and JMK Shows. With over 35 years of experience in event promotion, she is the premier event organizer for food truck festivals. She also organizes the Big Brew Beer Festival, Beer BBQ Bacon Showdown, Taco Palooza, and many other local festivals.
Upcoming Events at Our Lady of Lake:
VERONA, NJ -- The proposed 2023 municipal budget for Verona Township was introduced at its Town Council meeting Monday night.Total appropriations are projected to be $27.1 million, with $17.5 of that raised by taxes. This represents a 2.14% increase in taxes, which is the lowest tax increase since 2017.Included in the budget are additions to both part-time and full-time staff to address departments that have been understaffed for several years, and to account for the township's projected population growth in coming years....
VERONA, NJ -- The proposed 2023 municipal budget for Verona Township was introduced at its Town Council meeting Monday night.
Total appropriations are projected to be $27.1 million, with $17.5 of that raised by taxes. This represents a 2.14% increase in taxes, which is the lowest tax increase since 2017.
Included in the budget are additions to both part-time and full-time staff to address departments that have been understaffed for several years, and to account for the township's projected population growth in coming years.
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The hearing on the budget will be on April 17.
"I’m very proud that in a challenging fiscal environment that we were able to not just maintain, but expand municipal services with very minimal impact to the taxpayer," Verona Mayor Alex Roman said.
Councilman Christopher Tamburro said, "The only concern is that when we have people and salaries do go up, and pensions go up and all the associated fringe benefits … I appreciate that now the numbers work out very well, the budget is tight, the budget is very well done, but in the future this is something we’re going to need to keep an eye on whether we can sustain the growth in those positions. It is my hope that we will continue to secure shared services agreements and use that savings to offset the additional costs of adding staff."
Tamburro said that despite the longer-term concerns he voiced, he will be supporting the budget proposal.
Roman said that Tamburro’s “concerns are well-taken. Labor is our single biggest expense. We’re gonna have 300 more units of housing in this town in the next couple of years. That’s going to increase demands on all of our services … literally everything that we do. In that context, I am willing to recognize that I’d rather have some experienced staff on early. It’s carefully considered."
A sharp increase in Verona’s affordable housing mandate caused by a lapse in housing protocols under Governor Christie made for thorny decisions on affordable housing for the current Town Council. Coping with future mandates are the heart of the second common question for this year’s candidates. Their answers to the common questions are presented in alphabetical order. The second common question was:Q: How do we get through the next round of state-mandated affordable housing without the cost and confusion of the la...
A sharp increase in Verona’s affordable housing mandate caused by a lapse in housing protocols under Governor Christie made for thorny decisions on affordable housing for the current Town Council. Coping with future mandates are the heart of the second common question for this year’s candidates. Their answers to the common questions are presented in alphabetical order. The second common question was:
Q: How do we get through the next round of state-mandated affordable housing without the cost and confusion of the last round?
Christine McGrath: I really am glad you asked this question because this is really the crux of what the council needs to be working on, especially in the next two years. So first of all, the main thing is that we have to center on our values that we want to maintain, and we want to prevent the overburdening of our school district. The way we do that is by looking at our zoning, and determine where we are most vulnerable to developers coming in as intervenors. And where do we actually want to generate future opportunities? When I talk to residents, there are a lot of residents whose children are no longer in the school district, who are just starting in retirement and they would like to downsize but stay in town. We don’t even have a lot of housing options for them to stay within their social networks and in our great community, using our community center, our library and our pool. So I think we need to marry the mandates from the state of New Jersey with our desire to not overburden our school district. We need to look at opportunities to maybe incentivize projects that meet our needs, and develop the housing that we actually do need for our residents. I think there is a way of turning what is a mandate and flipping it into an opportunity for Verona.
Alex Roman: I would say that we are already in a much better place than we were. What got done in this round of affordable housing really does set the stage for future rounds of compliance. This year or this round, we had a very high burden due to the changes related to age restricted housing. So first off, it’s far less likely that the burden in future rounds is going to be as strong as it was in this round. I do expect that we will need more units. I just don’t expect it to be the same quantity of units.
What we have coming up right now is work left to be done in terms of all of our compliance items from this round. We have to pass the Affordable Housing and Development fee ordinances. We have the housing element of the Fair Share Plan. We have the affirmative marketing plan and the spending plan coming up. All of these elements are targeted towards compliance going forward. The other big thing is the additional TCM overlay zone, the Montrose-South Prospect zone where we can develop another fourteen units of affordable housing, they’re out of seventy promotable on that site, assuming that someone actually purchases any of that land and consolidates it into this new project. But we are zoning for it. So we’re in a much better space to where we will probably have less of a surprise this time around I would say. We also have a set aside ordinance that we put into place.
So anything that’s multifamily that generates five or more new units has satisfied requirements. That’s what we’ve done already. The other big thing that we need to look at, and this ties into the Master Plan as a whole, are some of the recommendations that were made regarding the town center zone. The zoning there essentially makes it very, very challenging for new housing to be developed without it being under a variance process. Because while we allow three story buildings, we do require the equal distribution of uses for mixed uses and as a result, nothing gets redeveloped down there simply because it doesn’t economically make a lot of sense to build only two story buildings. You can’t really functionally build a three story building with a 50/50 mixed use. So that’s one of the things that we want to look at as a potential change that can help generate affordable housing units or at least allow for zoning to make them realistically developable. Not changing the maximum height of the buildings, not changing the size of the building that could be developed, but simply making it so that someone could potentially develop a building realistically that had two storys of housing over one story of commercial. I would only do that in the town center zone, not in the extended Town Center Zone.
The character of those zones are very different, but that’s a good way of allowing us to have additional developable use going forward. The other big thing that we need to do is keep preserving open space. That’s another very powerful strategy because it lessens our realistic development potential. So even if we are given a high number of affordable housing units for a need, they still look at our total RDP. (RDP is essentially a cap on what can truly be developed versus the need for affordable housing.) Conserved lands that are protected by a steep slope ordinance can essentially make it so that there’s a certain amount of development that can’t happen even if there is a need for affordable housing. You still may end up with an unmet need, if you don’t have land that can be developable. So anytime that we’re preserving land in terms of open space that is actually a protective element going forward as well. So I think that has to play into our strategy. We did very well in terms of preserving a lot of open space both through land acquisition and through a land donation recently and we need to keep looking for those opportunities going forward.
When you refer to the property on the south side of Bloomfield Avenue below South prospect, is that primarily the old IHOP lot or is that bigger than that?
Alex Roman: So as part of the settlement in this round with Fair Share, in addition to the development projects that are actually being done, one of our other requirements was to create one more overlay zone within town to allow for the potential of future development. We looked at several sites. The one that we landed on was essentially Bloomfield between Montrose and South Prospect. We are defining the Town Centre mixed use overlay zone there that allows for increased density in that zone. There is not a project on the table and in fact, all of those lots are principally owned by separate owners, but we had to declare an additional potential redevelopment zone as part of this round’s compliance. But that helps us out because now there’s a possibility of developing 14 more age-use units if needed. You have to have a willing seller and a willing buyer, and someone that sees an economic development project there but being able to do that helps us even if it does, or does not get built at any point in time in the near future. That creates the potential for affordable housing development in the future.
Christian Strumolo: While the cause of that confusion was again neglect, the state was on top of the township of Verona year after year after year, and they waited, waited and waited. And then they finally have to purchase the piece of property which I think was above and beyond what the property’s worth. And my understanding is, the affordable housing they did was two rounds of affordable housing. And now we’re kind of caught up to where we should be. I understand that in 26, I think possibly, we’re gonna have maybe our third round. But again, these are issues that didn’t happen overnight. And now all of a sudden it’s a huge priority to accomplish.
Well, in a way, sir, they did because the rules for affordable housing changed under Governor Christie. Before that, they had been taken care of by the Fair Share Housing Center. Cities in New Jersey knew what to expect with coming rounds. All of that went out the window with Governor Christie. And so we had to wait a long time to find out what those new rules are.
Christian Strumolo: Well, we have Alex is there eight years. Christine? Is there four years. Under the Murphy administration, it was very clear-cut what he expected for townships like Verona to get done. And as of today, there’s not one affordable housing unit built, not one. You can purchase all the properties you’d like and have Council meetings and closed sessions. But the bottom line is nothing’s been done. The ground has not been broken. There’s no units out there available for our residents that are in need to possibly, you know, apply for those apartments.
What do you do when you have good retail frontage on Bloomfield Avenue but don’t need it all for your existing business? You turn it into an independent book store.That’s what Josh Jacobs, the owner of Hearth Realty, and his wife Lauren Jacobs, are going to do at 460 Bloomfield Avenue across the street from Verona Park and where Hearth Realty’s Verona office is located.“Although our team and business are growing, the real estate o...
What do you do when you have good retail frontage on Bloomfield Avenue but don’t need it all for your existing business? You turn it into an independent book store.
That’s what Josh Jacobs, the owner of Hearth Realty, and his wife Lauren Jacobs, are going to do at 460 Bloomfield Avenue across the street from Verona Park and where Hearth Realty’s Verona office is located.
“Although our team and business are growing, the real estate office has become less important to conducting business,” Josh Jacobs, says of Hearth Realty, which is located next to Dolce Marie Cafe & Bakeshop. “Customers don’t walk into the office for real estate services anymore. The state still requires brokerages to maintain office space and we are fortunate to have other office space in the building that we will be able to use for real estate purposes while dedicating the front to the bookstore.”
The Collective Bookstore, as the new bookstore will be known, will offer a collection of books and gifts and specialize in new releases, best sellers, children’s books, classics and select vinyl records. Additionally, the store will also offer special programs for local book clubs, teachers, and unique shopping experiences for customers. Special events will include a rotating feature of authors and product features from local businesses. Jacobs expects the store to hold a grand opening in July.
“Our mission as residents and local business owners has always been to help strengthen our community,” says Jacobs. “Over the last five years, our affiliated businesses (including Hearth Realty Group) have supported over 100 local charities and organizations. The bookstore will donate a percentage of annual profits on an ongoing basis to our education programs, offer fundraising opportunities for local organizations, teacher discounts for classroom products, and educational and field trip programs throughout the year.”
Residents can shop the bookstore even before the physical store opens by placing special orders for book clubs or school events or shopping on www.TCbookstore.com.
The Collective Bookstore 460 Bloomfield Avenue Verona, NJ 07044
To the Editor:
Mayor Roman’s performance at the Candidates Forum on April 26 was quite impressive. The forum clearly showed that Alex researches and comprehends the complex issues that Verona faces. He also has the ability to explain those issues to residents and offer solutions.
I came to know Mayor Roman 15 years ago, when as a concerned resident he began to attend Town Council meetings. I then had the opportunity to serve with Alex on the Council and it was obvious that he has the unique ability to connect the dots on multiple issues and understand the long-term effect they may have on our community.
He is always approachable and remains a community advocate. Alex believes in opportunities for all residents as well as limited development, open government, controlling taxes and preserving open space.
Communities all over NJ continue to be burdened by unfunded state and federal mandates. These mandates are costly and make it very difficult on small town governing bodies. That is why we need selfless and creative leaders like Alex that have a vision and the temperament to guide Verona through these difficult situations that our community face.
Jay Sniatkowski Former Verona Mayor, Council Member
Many Verona residents received a letter yesterday asserting that Mayor Alex Roman and Deputy Mayor Christine McGrath support a cannabis dispensary at Pilgrim Plaza, an assertion that is false. The letter was written on stationary with the Strumolo campaign logo on top and the words “Paid for by Strumolo for Verona Council” on the bottom. It was mailed in an envelope with a pre-printed Strumolo logo.Neither Ma...
Many Verona residents received a letter yesterday asserting that Mayor Alex Roman and Deputy Mayor Christine McGrath support a cannabis dispensary at Pilgrim Plaza, an assertion that is false. The letter was written on stationary with the Strumolo campaign logo on top and the words “Paid for by Strumolo for Verona Council” on the bottom. It was mailed in an envelope with a pre-printed Strumolo logo.
Neither Mayor Roman nor Deputy Mayor McGrath support a cannabis dispensary at Pilgrim Plaza and both denounced the attempt to mis-represent their positions on cannabis.
“Given that the candidate who sent this mailer has attended only half of one council meeting,” said McGrath, “it should come as no surprise that there are numerous inaccuracies in this mailer. Most importantly, there is no active project for establishing a cannabis dispensary anywhere in Verona, nor has any revenue from a cannabis dispensary been included in municipal budgets. I have been sharing detailed meeting recaps when this issue was discussed, in real time as they happened, on my Council website at christinemcgrathverona.com.
“Unfortunately this candidate’s knowledge of the issues, including this one, is thin at best, McGrath added. “Criticism and debate are healthy, but they must be informed by the facts. Verona voters are smart and know this. As always, my door is open to anyone who has questions about anything going on in township government. I look forward to the election on Tuesday.”
Roman was similarly blunt about the distortion. “I have consistently opposed the establishment of a dispensary, on the record,” Roman wrote to MyVeronaNJ. “The Township Council has had extensive debate over recreational cannabis including expert testimony. I have stated my position consistently and repeatedly. While I recognize that the population of New Jersey and a majority of those in Verona are in favor of permitting recreational cannabis in the state, that is a different question than whether we allow a retail establishment in our community. I believe that such an establishment is against the spirit of our Zoning Ordinance which prohibits other types of businesses not conducive to the community we wish to create. I am unconvinced that any tax revenue received would offset the negative effects of such an establishment.”
Roman said that anyone who wanted to verify his position could go to the recent Verona Candidates’ Forum. “At 20 minutes and 33 seconds into the forum, I express my position again,” he wrote. The link is tinyurl.com/veronadebate .
“I am very disappointed in Mr. Strumolo for his dishonesty as a candidate for public office, particularly with such little time left to correct the record,” Roman added.
MyVeronaNJ.com reached out to Strumolo yesterday evening to confirm that his campaign had sent out the mailer. Angela Anemoyanis, the CEO of Verona-based Muse Marketing, responded that “I can certainly look into the letter that you are referring to.” To date, there has been no further response.
To the Editor:
No matter what our differences in this town, we all know that what it takes to get any job done is competence and trustworthiness. And it is now abundantly clear from the number of “meet the candidate” forums, both in person and written, that Verona has two highly competent, experienced and dedicated candidates running for re-election on town council, Christine McGrath and Alex Roman. Whether they were pitched a question spontaneously in person, or gave a written response, no matter the topic, their answer showed a deep familiarity and thoughtful approach to the issues and questions that face residents in Verona. Whether the question was about environmental issues surrounding the Peckman river, about zoning rules for affordable housing, about what they have done and will do to increase inclusivity and DEI initiatives, McGrath and Roman showed their deep knowledge with specific, detailed and often lengthy responses. They are fully versed in how local government works and with the issues that are unique to our town.
Unfortunately, the third candidate, Christian Strumolo, has not shown himself to be trustworthy or competent. A recent piece in The New Jersey Globe details numerous arrests, based on public records, as well as other bankruptcy issues. (Just to be clear, sharing information on someone’s previous behavior and actions is the opposite of character assassination. It is inviting people to judge that person based on their own actions, not on someone else’s characterization of them.) His responses at both the in-person and written forums were short on substance and nearly empty of detail (case in point: when asked what experience he would bring to the town council, Mr. Strumolo’s reply was “So what I would bring to the table is how to finally get things done.” And Mr. Strumolo’s recent campaign mailer, which included numerous inaccuracies, continues to reinforce my concerns about his trustworthiness and competency.
It takes more than grumbling about how long other candidates have been in office to convince voters that you are ready to do the job of council member. Verona needs and deserves council members who have taken the time to study the problems, who have experience in dealing with the many personnel in local government, who have experience and familiarity with Verona’s Master Plan, who can speak, like McGrath and Roman, with fluency and knowledge about zoning laws, and Affordable Housing and Development ordinances, and about the progress we have made in making our schools more welcoming for all children, and the many things we still have yet to do to achieve our goals there. You need not take my word for it, but can see for yourself: Watch the 2023 Town Council Candidates Forum on youtube, or read through their responses to questions here.
If you believe that competence and trustworthiness are essential qualities in an elected official, then it is clear you must come out and vote for Christine McGrath and Alex Roman on May 9th.
Sincerely Laura Morowitz Verona