HOPATCONG – In the future, downtown Hopatcong could have a neighborhood of shops, café and restaurants, homes, marinas and lakeside seating.
The main street would be wide enough for cars, bicycles and parking, flanked by sidewalks lined with awning-covered shops filled by strolling pedestrians.
That long-term vision was set in motion Tuesday with a public hearing on the draft of the reexamination of the borough’s master plan that centers on the redevelopment of River Styx Road near the bridge. The hearing drew about 50 spectators.
The plan would create an “overlay zone” of new land-use options, building uses, design standards, and streetscapes that would be put in place while the current zoning for the district would remain.
The idea is, town officials explained, that overtime, as building uses change and buildings change hands, the new standards would be implemented, transforming the underused area into a town center.
The plan includes three mixed-use zones of commercial business and housing, a residential-only area, a waterfront district and a parking zone. The design standards call for a consistency of design and material, the waterfront zone would ensure public access to Lake Hopatcong, and the roadway would be wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic, sidewalks and parking.
The 2014 Master Plan Reexamination Report and the details of the River Styx Road form based code draft plan is available on the borough’s website www.hopatcong.org.
Councilman Michael Francis, a member of the land-use board, said this River Styx plan has the support of Sussex County and the Highlands Council, which last year approved a “town center” designation for this section of the borough.
It is a plan designed not only to benefit just newcomers to Hopatcong, but current residents as well, he said.
“We can not cut anymore,” Francis said. “We can not wait for the state and federal governments to help. A proposal like this allows us to become a destination, unlike any other place on the lake. This is a shot for Hopatcong to be really special.”
Mayor Sylvia Petillo said this is a long-term plan and the changes will be slow to develop. The mere discussion of the redevelopment plan has attracted interest from developers, she said.

Hopatcong resident Barbara Loring addresses the planning board during the public comment portion of the presentation of the River Styx Road Form Based Coad Draft plan at a public meeting, Tuesday, May 6.
Hopatcong resident Barbara Loring addresses the planning board during the public comment portion of the presentation of the River Styx Road Form Based Code Draft plan at a public meeting, Tuesday, May 6.

During the public discussion of the plan by the audience, resident Barbara Loring asked if business owners would receive help with the costs of the making over their building to meet the new designed standards.
Petillo said the borough has used several grants to make improvement to facilities in town, and business owners on the redevelopment zone could apply for grants and loans to help with the costs.
Loring also asked if the housing used in the mixed-use zones would be rental units or ownership units.
Borough engineer John Ruschke said the goals of the plan is not to create a two-business situation in a single building, for example, one business operating a first-floor retail store, while a second business owner owns and rents the housing units on the other floors of the same building.
The goal is to have the housing units be condominiums, he said.
The potential for a negative impact on some property owners was also raised at the meeting.
James Baker of West River Styx Road asked what the height of potential new buildings in the mixed-use zone would be.
They would range from 30 to 45 feet tall, he was told.
He asked if there would be any accommodation made for homes like his that now have lake views, but could lose that feature with the new development.
“You basically are promoting the loss of the one feature that gives this home value,” Baker said. “Without lake views the value of this house drops.”
Francis said the plan was still developing, but acknowledged, “there will be winners and losers.” Still, he said, the redevelopment plan offers the borough its best shot at moving forward.

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Wit all the vacant buildings in Hopatcong in general,and specifically on River Styx Road, it boggles my mind that developers are coming in and putting up new structures.  Why can’t the township invite established chains to come in and use the vacant buildings?

ann | August 24, 2016

I was at the meeting (some time ago) when the mayor admitted the streetlights were not fully covered by a grant she said no grant covers all the costs.  When someone followed up with another question the mayor admitted that they cost over $80,000 now they are putting up new LED streetlights that will shine in people’s windows.  The mayor says that a lot of people walk there.  If they are walking in the park they are not allowed in the park late at night.  Same developer that built the condo’s apparently own’s Fuersteins and apparently is waiting for the eminent domain to go through so he can buy up all the property for a song and the mayor and council will help him pay for everything.  Is he paying taxes on the condo’s?  The meeting about the eminent domain “redevelopment” meeting was cancelled because too many people showed up.  Poor planning or they just don’t want that many witnesses.  As for the sewers no one wanted them, but then again no one wanted the DPW to be privatized.  I was at a meeting a long time ago (obviously) when a teacher asked about the sewer fees and (she was knowledgeable)  and she pointed out that the sewer people were paying for water that the town was “holding” for future development.  I don’t know what future development she was talking about but perhaps it was for the eminent domain.  Who knows what else they have planned, when apparently they will be the only one’s living here

Mary | July 20, 2016

The mayor and council members keep mentioning and saying this area will become a walkable area for residents, the new condos are built but there still isn’t any new sidewalks going from the condos down to the bridge. Another concern is who is going to maintain these sidewalks, the borough sidewalks on lakeside Blvd are non existent because the borough has abandoned them and the sidewalks down River Styx are never maintained except by the residents who actually care about the boroughs appearance. The borough needs lamp posts down River Styx instead of wasting the new lights they just got from another grant, River Styx is a main roadway and needs to be given a nicer look than it is. What is the development company doing with the fuerstein property that it purchased and is the roadway going to get a bike lane up,River Styx and roadway parking spots all the way up, this would also cure the speeding traffic that goes through this area. Lakeside Blvd has been ignored looks horrible, plant some trees along lakeside Blvd and along River Styx to give the borough a real town feel, this is the only town in the area that doesn’t have a home town feel. Get rid of the ace tree companies tractor trailer parking area, that’s a real good look as you enter the borough, but I’m sure they pay plenty to the mayor to do what they want. Election time is here, Petillo will win of course and still say she will fix and revitalize but hasn’t done anything in years except fix the municipal property. Sewer fees are still high and they have no plans to fix it, half of the properties in the borough are on tax sales and have Leon’s because of this high sewer fee, borough scam which they never finished and never should have done, the borough should be sued for it. Hopatcong will keep it disgusting reputation because of its horrible image and un ethical borough council and mayor, Hopatcong could be a really nice lake town but it doesn’t look like it will ever be financially able to achieve that to anything spectacular- God speed Hopatcong!

Ty | October 30, 2015