CRANFORD, NJ — Patrick Giblin, who has been chosen to become mayor in 2019 by the members of the Township Committee, is taking the appointment in stride.
“From the outside looking in, it seems to be a big deal,” he said during a phone interview with LocalSource Dec. 20. “I view it more I’m chairing a committee of equals. That’s really what it is. Cranford doesn’t elect its mayor. So, it’s really just chairing the committee and chairing the meetings. Obviously, you’re the face of the town in a lot of ways.”
Giblin will take over for former Mayor Tom Hannen, who served for the past two years, and also in 2013.
Giblin assumes the new role at a time when the township is faces such ongoing issues as a push for flood mitigation, growing concerns about aircraft noise, a plan to redistrict the schools and residents’ resistance to Union County College erecting a 130-foot cell tower.
Perhaps most pressing is the township’s struggle to balance development with its court-mandated obligation to zone for Mount Laurel housing.
The committee voted at its Dec. 18 meeting to submit a plan to the courts that it hopes will satisfy its third-round obligation under the so-called “Mount Laurel” doctrine established by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The township is facing a March expiration to its immunity from “builder’s remedy” lawsuits, which allow developers to have control of the zoning and building process if a town is declared deficient in affordable housing.
When asked where he will focus his attention, Giblin replied, “All the above,” and added, “I would say a lot of those things are either out of our control or not necessarily under our jurisdiction. It doesn’t mean they’re not important topics that we don’t want to do our best to help with, but certainly the affordable housing plan that was recently filed, we want to see that through and hopefully get that approval from the courts.
“That affects a lot of things … particularly overdevelopment concerns. Without having the affordable housing plan approved, it just leads itself to uncertainty. It’s what many towns have been struggling with, the uncertainty that comes with the courts deciding this.”
The Cranford Planning Board has heard several witnesses’ testimony since May regarding Hartz Mountain Industries’ application to rezone a 30.5-acre tract of land at 750 Walnut Ave. from industrial to residential in order to build a 905-unit apartment complex. A planner for the township said earlier this month that PSE&G has sent the township a letter stating its interest in purchasing 10 to 12 acres on that site.
Since mayors sit on planning boards as duty of the position, Hannen may continue to hear testimony on the application next year, based on an ordinance introduced at the Dec. 18 meeting. Giblin said the ordinance was introduced “to mirror the state ordinance that allows the mayor or the mayor’s designee to sit on the planning board. Right now, the Cranford statute states the mayor sits on the Planning Board.
“Given the amount of time they’ve invested in those hearings, to keep that board as intact as possible for that particular application. If the ordinance gets passed and there is a willingness, it would allow the mayor on an application-by-application basis to designate someone else to take the spot of the mayor for Planning Board applications.”
The ordinance was passed with a a 3-2 vote at its first reading. A second reading is scheduled for 2019.
Giblin, who is married with three children and works in the financial services field, served as deputy mayor in 2017. His father, Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, a Democrat from the 34th Legislative District, was on hand in January as Giblin was sworn in for his second three-year term.
Hannen, who typically signs off each meeting by wishing his mother a good night, announced toward the end of the Dec. 18 meeting that he would not be mayor in 2019.
“This is going to be my last meeting as mayor and it has been my honor to serve as the chair of the Township Committee,” Hannen said. “It’s been an eventful year, and one of the things that I set as a goal for this year was to make sure that before Dec. 31, that we had a plan in place that we could provide for an affordable housing plan that would be submitted to the court. We have done that, and mission accomplished, as they say.”
In a Dec. 21 phone interview, Hannen said Giblin “has a sound financial background and he has had the experience being on the Township Committee three and a half years now. I’m sure he will do fine and represent the citizens of Cranford well.”
The committee also voted to hire Jamie Cryan as township business administrator at the Dec. 18 meeting. Cryan, who served as municipal administrator for three years in West New York, succeeds Terence Wall, who stepped aside at the end of October to be the municipal clerk in Hillside. Police Chief Ryan Greco has filled as business administrator in on an interim basis.