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Brick Mayor’s Fee Waiver Program to Help Fill Empty Storefronts Formally Introduced

A sign advertises commercial leasing at the Laurel Square shopping center.

A sign advertises commercial leasing at the Laurel Square shopping center.

An ordinance to enact Brick Mayor John Ducey’s proposal to waive fees for small businesses that open in unoccupied commercial space in the township – as opposed to constructing a new building – was unanimously introduced by the township council this week.

Ducey announced the program in June but said state officials, upon hearing about the proposal, wanted to review it since it was the first of its kind in New Jersey.

The state “gave us their blessing,” Ducey said, paving the way for the ordinance which was introduced Tuesday.

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The ordinance waives all fees for construction, alteration and improvements to commercial space under 5,000 square feet that has been vacant for a year or longer. The square footage requirement ensures that the program is aimed at local businesses versus large corporations that can afford to pay the fees, Ducey said.

“We’re finally getting into it, we want to be aggressive about it,” said Ducey. “The more and more economic dollars stay here in Brick, the better off we all are.”

Ducey said the township cannot prevent businesses from constructing a building on land they legally own and plan to develop, but the incentive may convince a small business to open in Brick rather than elsewhere.

The fee waiver would last through 2016, at point it would have to be renewed by the township council. Before the waiver goes into effect, the ordinance authorizing it is subject to a public hearing and second vote, which will come at the Sept. 22 council meeting.

Additionally, the council unanimously introduced an ordinance that will waive construction permitting fees for handicap access improvements at “all places of assembly for common religious, civic or social purposes.”

Fees for accessibility projects are already waived for residential and public buildings. The ordinance comes after a township teenager asked the council to waive fees for an access ramp he was building at a church for his Eagle Scout project. The township waived the fees in that case and is now seeking to make the waiver permanent.