BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — Township Committee members are discussing what should be the future of many of the buildings at its main tourist attraction — including their possible selling off or demolition.
And members of the public, including several business leaders who already are speaking out, will have the opportunity to discuss Richland Village’s future later this month.
In November 2004, Buena Vista embarked on an ambitious project to create a rail line destination in the township.
During the years, the project has cost about $3 million, paid through grants and township money, to create Richland Village, a train station in the Richland section of the township on Old Harding Highway/Route 40. Hundreds of thousands of people have ridden the rails as a tourist destination, and many businesses opened in the area.
But with the struggling economy, some of the businesses have left. Now the Township Committee is debating what to do with the eight buildings it owns in the area.
“We’re looking at all the buildings and evaluating where we go from here,” Mayor Sue Barber said. “It’s time for the township to take advantage of the situation and see if we can save taxpayers money.”
There are about 14 active businesses in the small complex. Many of them came to the township’s committee meeting Monday at the Municipal Building to express their support for the project.
“If you go left or right on (Route) 40, there’s nothing there,” said Frank Mosentoff, owner of It’s A Toy Store for five years. “The fact that Richland Village is thriving and has so many unique businesses. It’s a great place.”
Ed Melon, owner of The Rail, said many of the businesses owners would be affected if other buildings were demolished.
“We’ve invested heavily in our businesses, and we’ve seen growth here,” he said.
The committee heard a report at last month’s meeting regarding some issues with the vacant buildings. The committee will hold a public hearing Sept. 23 to solicit input from the public and then decide to sell, demolish or rehabilitate the buildings to get new tenants.
“We want to get all of the information before we make a decision,” Deputy Mayor Richard Harlan said.
Committee member Chuck Chiarello, who was mayor when the plan for Richland Village was implemented, said the township has interest from other businesses to move into the buildings. The township must decide if it’s worth it to make upgrades or risk losing the attraction, he said.
He noted Richland Village is one of the few places in the township that can be used to build a ratable base, because much of Buena Vista is under Pinelands control.
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