When he makes the drive to Rutgers University where he works as a professor said he spends a considerable amount of time driving the Route 9 corridor.
It is that road which he said has inspired two of his major reasons for running for mayor as he looks at the empty storefronts while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. "The business climate is not very good," he said to members of the who had gathered for the event at . "Route 9 is off putting and our taxes, especially our municipal taxes are going through the roof."
As residents and businesses in town see their taxes rise, Field said it gives them less incentive to stay in Howell. "That burden is driving residents out, is driving business out and is making it harder and harder for the town to attract new business and new residents," he said.
He said there are some exceptions to that like the Howell Plaza which is being refinished and expanded but said that is the exception rather than the rule. "We're not seeing much of a real effort to rebuild the climate to help the businesses come in," he said. "Our taxes are skyrocketing. Route 9 is falling apart, our retail storefronts, many of them are collapsing it seems and we're not attracting anything much to offset that."
Field said he saw two areas where the township could work more with local businesses to help them succeed even in difficult economic times including streamlining the inspection process and making the rules that go along with those inspections easier to understand.
For new businesses, Field said he supported looking into some version of an Economic Development Committee, which he said helped bring in larger businesses in the past like , and Stop & Shop. "Our tax base dropped 20 percent in the most recent revaluation," he said. "That's a big hit. If we can find more business development we can offset the costs of our public services by spreading it over a healthier tax base."
It is not just new business that Field said the town needs, but the kind of business is also important. "We do need to redo Route 9, but we do need to get non-retail," he said. "I think we're pretty much retailed out for a lot of what we do."
He said with companies that do things like distribution or light industry they might be more capable of staying for the long term. By bringing in those businesses Field said they would also provide business to the restaurants in town for people who were looking for lunch during their day.
Mayor Robert Walsh, who attended the event along with other members of the council, said he agreed that more business was needed in the town. He added that if there is more business, especially along the Route 9 corridor, that would also add more traffic to the already busy roadway. "If you have an office complex it's not going to decrease the traffic," he said. "There will be more. More bodies, more cars, more traffic. But something has to be done for the longevity of the town."
Without the proper development Walsh said township residents will continue to see their taxes continue to go up. While neighboring towns like Freehold have their tax rate bolstered by more than 20 percent commercial real estate, he said Howell is only at 11 percent "because of poor planning years and years ago."
Looking at the traffic on the road Field said he believed some of the congestion could be handled by changes to not only the timing of the lights at intersections like Aldrich Rd. but also possibly adding a left turn lane from Route 9 at that intersection and possibly adding an additional lane there. He also said he believed if there was an exit on Route 195 around New Prospect Rd. in Jackson it would help alleviate the traffic in Howell.
While he said the growth of business was important, Field said the township has to be careful with its development because "we are a very very wet town." He added, "We already have houses that are uninhabitable because of the hurricane a year ago. Every new development we put in creates more surface runoff."
Another topic of discussion on Wednesday was sewers, which Field said will eventually be needed on corridors like Route 9 and Route 33, but not without some work beforehand. "I agree sewers are critical for any reasonably sized development," he said. "Before we go and push more sewers around, can we get the ones that we just put in to be more effectively used."
He added he believed it was important to figure out, "What are we doing wrong if anything. What can we do as a town before we start to throw more money out there hitting our tax bill and our sewer bill to use what he already have." In the end though, he said, "In the long term all of Route 9 probably has to be sewered."
This was the second event where candidates for Mayor were given the opportunity to address members of the Chamber. Independent candidate spoke to the group and Deputy Mayor will round out the series next month. The Chamber of Commerce is also scheduled to hold a debate for the Howell Board of Education Candidates on Oct. 15 at the old Southard School.