By JOHN T. WARD
So say some Fair Haven residents in a new and extensive survey of on the physical attributes of the town as it begins mapping out its future.
Conducted in October by the Fair Haven Planning Board as it prepares to create an updated Master Plan, the survey asked residents to rank and share their thoughts on a wide variety of subjects, from the walkabilty of town to their degree of satisfaction with recreation facilities.
The purpose of the survey was to gauge public sentiment as officials embark on an update of the town’s Master Plan, said Mayor Ben Lucarelli.
“It’s setting the tone for the planning board and borough council as they sit down to do an update,” he told redbankgreen. “We’re really looking at a high-altitude view of the town. This is an indication of, ‘where are we going?’ and ‘how do we want the town to look down the road?'”
Among the findings: schools reign. Nearly 63 percent of respondents rated schools as their highest priority for making Fair Haven a better place to live. The next-closest top priority was home affordability, at 16 percent.
In answer to the question, “How satisfied are you with Fair Haven’s business district west of Fair Haven Road?” one respondent wrote:
“Should look quainter – awnings, plants trees Acme is aweful and needs to be replaced with something more attractive and cleaner.”
Another comment said the strip mall “needs a major facelift.”
The word “eyesore” comes up 27 times in the comments. The Krauszer’s convenience store and the strip mall anchored by the Acme supermarket came in for criticism as in need of refurbishing.
By contrast, some 65 percent of respondents expressed some degree of satisfaction with the older business district, east of Fair Haven Road.
At least one commenter seemed to overestimate the jurisdictional reach of local government, calling for “higher quality produce and more organic choices, a juice bar, and better prepared foods” at the Acme.
Lighting is mentioned 43 times, mostly in the context of street lamps and ballfields. One commenter found the lighting on River Road “excessive,” and several residents voiced opposition to night-lighting of playing fields.
Among the common threads the questionnaire detected was unhappiness about the sizes of new homes. Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that the size of new and remodeled homes relative to the size of surrounding homes was a concern. Forty-five percent cited architectural style as a concern.
About 20 percent said they were “not satisfied” with the appearance of recently built homes or additions.
“We’re going through a demographic shift,” Lucarelli said. “The homes my friends and I grew up in — the 1,900-square-foot, three-bedroom ranches — are now 3,200-square-foot custom homes on a quarter- or a third of an acre. So one of the themes is, ‘they’re too big.'”
Councilwoman Susan Sorensen told redbankgreen that she was heartened to see that a number of residents are yearning for more public access to the waterfront; 73 percent said they were in favor of the borough acquiring land along the Navesink River for public access.
She took that as support of the borough’s acquisition of the former Charles Williams house on DeNormandie Avenue, where a passive park is planned to allow residents to launch kayaks or just sit and enjoy the vista.
“I don’t know where we’re going to get” any more such property, she said with a laugh, “but I agree it would be nice to have more.”
The survey results won’t just be filed away, Lucarelli said. A subcommittee of the planning board has been asked to study the results to see what suggestions might be implemented.
“This is going to be a really democratic process,” said Lucarelli. The voices of those who responded “are going to be heard.”
Several comments addressed the former Sunoco station on River Road, which has been vacant since December, 2011. Though one commenter suggested that “a public park would be a nice addition,” Investors Savings Bank has a plan to create a drive-thru bank branch on the site. A planning board hearing on the request for variances is scheduled for May 10.