The Manalapan Township Committee Debate was held Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Manalapan Township Municipal Building. Republican incumbent Ryan Green and Democratic challenger Seth Ptasiewicz are vying for the one open seat on the Manalapan Township Committee, which is a three year term.
The Debate was moderated by Ruth Lipman, a member of the Western Monmouth League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization which hosted the event.
Green is looking to reclaim his spot on the Township Committee where he has served since 2010 and also served as Deputy Mayor in 2011. The incumbent has lived in Manalapan Township for 24 years, graduated from the Manalapan public school system, and now lives here with his wife Judith. He has spent 10 years working for the Manalapan Recreation Summer Program while attending Manalapan High School and in college. Green has also served on the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education.
“I’m someone who believes that actions speak louder than words,” Green said in his opening statement. “So, as you sit here tonight and consider who is going to earn your vote on election day I want you to look at our records. Look at what we’ve done for Manalapan Township.”
Green touted his record as a basis to re-elect him several times throughout the debate. He cited certain Township Committee victories as reasons to re-elect him, including: cutting over $1.3 million from the municipal budget since 2010, flat budgets in 2010 and 2011 with no tax increase, and the reduction of municipal employees by 36 in the last six years.
Green also said quality of life in Manalapan is his priority and that is why services have been maintained while spending was cut during his term. If re-elected, Green said he would continue to keep spending low while preserving resources through shared service agreements.
Ptasiewicz is running a second time for a spot on the Manalapan Township Committee. He and his wife are both lawyers and have lived in the Knob Hill development in Manalapan for 13 years.
Ptasiewicz said that his background as a lawyer will be beneficial to Manalapan because he provides a fresh perspective to things as wells professional, cost-effective solutions on a daily basis to his clients.
The challenger said that his main reason for running a second time is because he thinks the future of Manalapan is threatened. Ptasiewicz said that car dealerships are not a necessary service for Manalapan residents and he does not feel that they belong either on , or .
Six potential car dealerships would be allowed as a conditional use between the corner of Woodward Road and Iron Ore Road along Route 33, according to the amendment to the Master Plan that was unanimously approved by the Planning Board at their last meeting. Green is a member of the Planning Board, but was not present at the last meeting.
“In essence we’ve moved the car dealership problem from Route 9 to Route 33,” Ptasiewicz said. “People I’ve spoken with in this town do not want car dealerships here. They are not an essential service, they don’t provide a need to anybody here.”
Green clarified that the Planning Board’s approval to recommend car dealerships on Route 33 is simply a recommendation.
“The Master Plan, which is controlled by the Planning Board, is not the law of the land,” Green said, explaining that when a change is made to the Master Plan it is only to guide the Township Committee. The Township Committee, if they want to make a change, compose an ordinance and residents are duly notified about a public hearing on the ordinance.
In terms of ratables, Ptasiewicz said that southern Manalapan is under serviced and instead of car dealerships on Route 33, the Township Committee should look at bringing retail and a supermarket to the area, which the southern Manalapan residents have requested.
Green said that he also has reservations about bringing car dealerships to Route 33 and agrees with his opponent that additional retail, restaurants and a supermarket are needed in southern Manalapan.
Both Green and Ptasiewicz said that commuter parking is an issue in Manalapan that needs to be solved. Green said that he is currently working with the Township Committee to increase commuter parking. Letters of interest for a shared service with Freehold have been sent out, according to Green. These letters ask those on the commuter parking waiting list whether they would be interested in parking on Schibanoff Lane. Additional commuter parking is also being considered on Craig Road behind the Epicentre Shopping Plaza, Green said.
Ptasiewicz said that bringing mass transit, such as commuter buses, to Route 33 would help solve the commuter parking issue as well as alleviate the traffic congestion on Route 9.
Route 9 is at capacity, according to Ptasiewicz, and no more construction should occur on the highway within Manalapan. The discussion of adding car dealerships and retail space to the corner of Symmes Drive and Route 9 has been a mission of the Township Committee and the Planning Board over the past year, Ptasiewicz said, which would have brought added traffic, and health and safety problems to the Township.
Route 9 is a state highway and any changes to the roadway need to be made by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Green, the liaison to the Transportation Committee, said that Route 9 is a primary concern and the Transportation Committee continues to work with the state to upgrade the highway. The incumbent also said he supports any efforts which would improve the traffic flow on the highway whether it be widening the road, changing the timing of lights, and improving intersections.
An issue regarding paperwork arose duing the debate as Ptasiewicz has not yet filed his financial disclosure and contribution form for the Primary Election. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission was sent a request for an investigation into this matter.
Ptasiewicz said that he had provided all of the information to his treasurer for filing, but that it is not a requirement. Green vehemently disagreed, saying that election law requires all candidates to disclose where they are receiving money from and how they are spending it.
“To me this action is a concern because that’s ignoring the law,” Green asserted, whereas, Ptasiewicz said that the form will be taken care of and that the issue is “a red herring”.
The two did agree on some issues, however, such as Manalpaan not needing any more affordable housing, that the Manalapan Recreation Center is incomparable, that street cleaning needs to return to the township in a cost-effective way, and that bipartisanship is the only way to get things accomplished.
Both also believe in preserving farmland, but Ptasiewicz said that former mayor Andrew Lucas’ farmland acquisition “doesn’t pass the smell test”, while Green said the Lucas issue has become a “political football over the past few years”.
Additionally, Ptasiewicz and Green are both members of the Finance Committee, a volunteer advisory committee consisting of Manalapan residents. The committee meets regularly to work on the municipal budget to make sure that services remain and taxes remain low.
In the end, both Green and his challenger made it known that Manalapan Township is extremely important to them. Green said he will continue to work for the best interest of the residents and preserve quality of life and Ptasiewicz said he is committed to working for the residents of Manalapan and is not tied to anyone in the local political arena or concerned about advancing his political career.
The Debate was streamed live over the Manalapan Township Television Network, one of the network’s only live broadcasts. For a repeat broadcast, please tune into the Manalapan Televsion Network, Channel 77 on Cablevision and Channel 42 on Verizon Fios.