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Discover Claire's stance on the issues that matter most to our community and the solutions she's championing.




Pedestrian Mall/ Maple Street - July 9th, 2024 Council Remarks


Summer is in full swing, and I’m hearing from residents how much they miss the outdoor dining and entertainment on Maple Street.  Every time I’m downtown, it feels like a missed opportunity.  We should have diners enjoying the restaurants, residents lounging on street furniture and watching children draw on the street with chalk, live music and dancing, all the activity that attracts people downtown.  Instead, we have a quiet street.

As it did last year, Millburn has figured out how to do this.  Millburn has adopted the pedestrian mall model of street closing, a straightforward procedure with no state involvement.  Millburn recently debuted a closed street as its eating, drinking, music, and entertainment destination for the summer.  Multiple Summit residents have forwarded me an article about this pedestrian mall, pointing out that we could have and should have done the same.

This is about more than having fun.  As Millburn documented last year, a pedestrian mall is good economics.  It draws visitors who could be coming to Summit but are not.  Those visitors spend real money—on and off the mall.  

By not offering the same warm weather amenities as neighboring communities, Summit risks hurting its own downtown businesses.  It gives its residents fewer reasons to spend money in Summit, and it forfeits a big attraction that encourages potential new residents to visit and try us out.

We don’t need to wait for a new master plan to figure out how to do this.  Council should lead the city in providing a seasonal pedestrian mall.  It benefits all of us.

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Morris Broad Crossroads - June 11, 2024 Council Remarks


This ordinance was introduced three weeks ago and will likely be finalized tonight.  That is way too fast a timetable.

Council began the year promising transparency.  It promised task forces on important matters.  It promised public fora.  None of that has occurred with this ordinance, which will significantly reshape the greater downtown.

In many ways, this overlay zone resembles the prior redevelopment plan—except the city has far less control over what is built, lacks the financial tools to capture the bulk of recurring revenue, and has permitted zero community input in the process.  Further, there has been no explanation as to why this path is the right one.

For all its many faults, the Broad Street West project included significant community outreach and input before the pandemic.  Residents discussed topics such as building design and appearance, sustainability, and a wide variety of land use possibilities.  None of that has occurred here.

Residents who opposed the Broad Street West proposal demanded that anything built there comply with existing Zoning regulations.  By introducing this overlay zone, Council is ignoring that concern and is in fact, doing just the opposite.  It will permit a building of four stories instead of three and will allow for fifty percent more density than is permitted under the DRO.

Council should take a breath.  Table the ordinance.  Hold multiple community meetings and actively seek input from residents.  Use that input to rework the proposal and make it right. 

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Affordable Housing - May 21, 2024 Council Remarks


At the last council meeting, Council President Allen stated Summit will not move forward with the housing development proposed by At Home in Summit in conjunction with the Summit Affordable Housing Corporation.  Council President Allen explained that Summit will rely on developer set asides as we move into Round Four of our affordable housing obligation.

Here’s what wasn’t said: Summit remains obligated to construct or have online 50 units of affordable housing in Round Three of our obligation.  That Round ends on June 30, 2025.  To date, we’ve identified 25 units; only 16 of those are built.  In all likelihood, none of the unbuilt nine will have been constructed by the end of next June.  By turning down the opportunity to construct the 42 units of affordable housing proposed by At Home in Summit, Council is demonstrating it is not taking “all reasonable steps needed to achieve the goal of facilitating the construction of fifty (50) new rental/ownership units within the City,” as required by paragraph 12 of the settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center.

To generate the 25 additional units required in Round Three using only developer set asides would require constructing 125 units of owner-occupied housing with a 20 percent set aside, 167 units of rental housing with a 15 percent set aside, or some combination of the two.  That simply will not happen in the next 13 months.

Next door in Millburn, the city council chose not to move forward with planned downtown affordable housing.  The Fair Share Housing Center sued, and now Millburn has a Special Master to decide where its affordable housing will be built.

As noted above, Summit’s obligation to provide those additional 25 units of affordable housing in the next 13 months is the result of a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center.  I’m afraid Council’s decision not to accept At Home in Summit’s proposal has just put Summit in Fair Share Housing’s cross hairs.  If Summit hopes to make its own decisions about affordable housing, Council needs to act immediately.

Thank you.

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Budget - May 7, 2024 Council Remarks


I’m here tonight to talk about budgets, which, unlike the case for many people, is one of my favorite topics. I earned my JD and my Masters of Law in Taxation. I worked for the US Treasury Department, spent years as a financial planner, and was the Treasurer for the Summit Educational Foundation and Summit Downtown Inc.  In all those roles, I created budgets, I reviewed budgets, and I implemented budgets.


Overseeing and passing the city’s budget is the most important responsibility Common Council undertakes each year.  The budget is a statement of what Council leadership values and prioritizes—and what it envisions for our city.  In overseeing the budget, Council leadership must look at the big picture, make difficult decisions, and coordinate the wants of various city departments with what’s in the residents’ best interest to create a coherent, affordable whole.  I believe this Council, unfortunately, has not done that important job this year.


It is expensive to live in Summit. It is expensive to own or rent a home, to buy groceries, to support a family, and ultimately to retire in Summit.  I have heard complaints from my neighbors about the tax increase headed our way—the largest tax increase in a decade—and so I want to share my primary takeaway from this proposed budget. 


When comparing last year’s preliminary capital budget with the 2024 proposed budget, it appears departments mostly got what they requested. That sounds positive, but it comes with a downside for Summit’s residents.  A major danger with a budget this size and with an organization as complex as City Hall is that decisions can be made in silos without looking at the budget as a whole. I believe that is what has happened here. Aligning the budget with the big picture is Council leadership’s job.  This proposed budget reads as if that leadership has not been exercised.  Leadership comes with hard choices.  With this proposed budget, it reads like instead of making those choices, everything from the wishlist was included.


Council ought to deliver a budget that treats our taxpayers with respect. In a year with a significant increase in the value of property within the city—which increases revenues on its own—there was an opportunity to deliver taxpayers some relief. Council needs to go back to the drawing board because our neighbors deserve better. 



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Parking Study - April 2, 2024 Council Remarks


Parking. It’s a topic that’s been discussed and debated for years here in Summit, and it sometimes feels like a “one-step forward, two-steps back” situation. For good reason: we’ve got an award-winning downtown with many wonderful shops and restaurants…and lots of people driving in to patronize them. We’ve got nine in-neighborhood schools, several apartment and condo complexes and a few great little satellite business districts, all nestled in just a few square miles. In recent years, city departments have created comprehensive plans, including for streets, for sidewalks, and for parks.  I’d love to see Summit create one for parking.

A few months ago, Council addressed parking concerns raised by residents on Beauvoir Avenue.  Tonight, they’re addressing concerns raised by residents on Blackburn Road.  

Rather than these one-offs, I suggest the parking services committee look holistically at parking throughout the city.  For example, residents near the Ashland Avenue business district, where there are no time limits on parking, find employees parking on their streets all day long, occasionally blocking driveways and parking too close to the intersections.  Residents of the apartment buildings on Locust Street, where there is inadequate tenant parking, are limited to two hour parking during the day.  Understandably, some find that impossible to comply with.

Even in our downtown, where Summit has focused most of its parking resources and attention, there are opportunities to improve.  Specifically, there seems to be no parking enforcement after 5:00 or 6:00 pm.  We can all testify to bad parking behavior after hours: double parking, illegal parking, and so on. 

We register our cars based on license plate numbers; we pay for parking based on license plate numbers.  If we undertook a comprehensive parking study, perhaps we’d find that instituting tailored parking rules based on license plate numbers for both neighborhood residents and non-residents would ease much of the burden.  No doubt other opportunities exist, and I know we’ve got many smart, creative people who’d love to get to work on finding them.

I suggest the Community Programs and Parking Services Committee get the ball rolling on this much-needed improvement for our community.

Thank you.

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Destination Maple - March 19, 2024 Council Remarks


As the weather gets warmer, I’m again encouraging Council to pass a resolution closing the two downtown blocks of Maple Street for the 2024 summer season. As other New Jersey communities have demonstrated, this is a simple, straightforward process.

Red Bank, which has closed its downtown streets for many years, well before the pandemic, is a good example for Summit to emulate. Red Bank’s Police Chief, who until recently was also its acting City Administrator, says that because Red Bank does not close state roads to achieve their downtown closure, New Jersey DOT is not involved, and DOT has acknowledged this. This means that there is no annual process needed to achieve the closure there. Because Red Bank closes a street that abuts a county road—much as Maple Street abuts Springfield Avenue—they notify the county, but that’s it.  

Last year, Millburn closed downtown streets during the warm weather months, calling it the Pedestrian Mall. Millburn’s equivalent of our SDI undertook an informal survey of users. The words that most often came to visitors’ minds were: fun, community, lively, friendly, welcoming, relaxing, and friends. Isn’t that what we all want for Summit?  Favorite features included live music, public seating, and outdoor dining—all of which a seasonal closure of Maple Street would provide. Imagine it: little kids drawing out hopscotch games and making new friends while their parents enjoy seeing old friends with a renewed sense of community spirit. Importantly for our downtown merchants, mall visitors reported spending an average of $88 when they visited the mall and further reported they visited other businesses in town because the mall attracted them.

In fact, we do have some good feedback from Summit residents as a result of two surveys conducted a few years ago—one by SDI and one by now-Council President Lisa Allen—that overwhelmingly showed that Summit loves Destination Maple. Summit moms and dads, grandparents and visitors can sit out under the stars while kids play cornhole or chess, and for a little while, everyone feels young again. 

A seasonal closure of Maple Street is not complicated. It’s a win for our downtown, and it’s a win for Summit residents. Sure, we can address placemaking more in depth during the next Master Plan revision. Until then, let’s keep doing what worked so well and make it even better. Destination Maple is a place where Summit families can come together.

Thank you.

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Destination Maple - February 20, 2024 Council Remarks


Last month I requested that the Maple Street seasonal closure go to committee for DAR.  Thank you for taking that step.  Tonight, I want to talk a little bit about why it's so important to me and focus on next steps.

I’ve lived in Summit for 28 years now and know how lucky I am to have been able to raise my children in such a warm, wonderful community. The years I had with them as they were growing up…spending time at the library, at the Y and the Connection, at our church and at school events were a precious time in our lives. Now that they’re young adults living on their own, the time we spend together is a lot less concentrated than it used to be, but it’s no less special.  

When my kids come back for a visit we still like to go out and do things in our community but instead of story time at the library, we might go hear some live music or do a dinner out in town. During COVID one of our favorite new ways to do that was on Maple Street, outdoors, under the string lights I was proud to have had a hand in bringing to our downtown as a board member of SDI. It was such an amazing way for us to connect with each other as a family while supporting our community, seeing old friends, having some great meals under the stars and then maybe even doing a little after-dinner shopping. Live music, twinkling lights, good food, happy people…Summit became a destination!

I know that many friends feel the same way about that experience. I also know that many of our retail business owners did well during the Maple Street outdoor dining period, even better than they’re doing now. They added nighttime hours and gained a new set of customers, which unfortunately disappeared over the past year for some.

So my question for you is where are we with the Maple Street opportunity? I fear that there might be a little too much “analysis paralysis” and not enough “let’s figure out a way to do this.” There are plenty of other towns who have outdoor dining…including us for a few great years! we know we can do this. I have a suggestion: while the conversation continues, why not send a letter to the state with your intention to close Maple Street and get that ball rolling? Then, when a decision is made, and if it’s what I hope it is, you’ll already have the approval to move forward. 

Let’s be proactive, not reactive. And let’s get this done for our community and our businesses. Here’s your chance to bring Summit together on Maple Street. 

Thank you.

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Resident Protection Ordinance - February 6, 2024 Council Remarks


We all believe that city government’s first and most important job is to protect its residents.  We know the city of Summit takes that very seriously.

I am not speaking this evening for or against the concept of the “Resident Protection” ordinance.  What I AM saying is that as drafted, it is confusing and has unintended consequences.  As Councilmember Minegar stated when the ordinance was introduced, it is not ready for prime time.  Council should vote against enacting it.

First, the draft ordinance refers to someone who illegally enters a car or a house as an occupant.  At law, “Occupant” is understood to mean a person who has or had a claim to possess that car or that house.  A person who breaks into my car or my house is in no way its occupant.  If Council is attempting to outlaw trespass, theft, and burglary, the ordinance should either specifically define “occupant” to mean the opposite of what most people think it means or, better yet, use an accurate word.

Second, proposed section 3-16.3(b) can have bizarre results.  It criminalizes entering a home while the trespasser/burglar is present inside the house.  There is no intent requirement for this section.  Thus, if someone were to break into my house while I was out and I subsequently returned home and walked in while the burglar was still present, I would violate the plain language of the ordinance—no interpretation required.  Surely Council cannot intend this result, but it is what the words say.
Third, proposed section 3-16.3(c) is word for word the same section as proposed 3-16.2(b).  Presumably, this is to include the getaway driver who does not leave the car.  However, because it copies verbatim from the prior section, it does not incorporate being the getaway driver for a person who commits an offense under section 3-16.3(b).

If Council is bent on enacting a trespassing ordinance, it should take the necessary time and write one that makes sense.  Please go back to the drawing board.

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Destination Maple - January 23, 2024 Council Remarks


Council should move quickly to enact an ordinance providing permanent, seasonal closing of Maple Street between Union Place and Deforest Avenue. 

2023 was a natural experiment, allowing the city to compare summers with and without the Maple Street closure.  Merchants throughout downtown reported lower sales and less foot traffic.  We all noticed the lack of energy and fun.  Downtown Summit was dark and lifeless by 9:30 pm on summer weekends.  

As we all saw in 2022, a closed Maple Street, combined with indoor restaurant dining at capacity, allows for significant public open space.  Summit Downtown has repeatedly stated that it has the funds to purchase street furniture for that public space, along with more attractive bollards to protect it.  This will allow all Summit residents to enjoy a vibrant, energized downtown during the warm weather months.

Two separate surveys—one conducted by Council President Allen and one commissioned by SDI—have unequivocally demonstrated broad support among residents for this initiative.  Responsible leadership is about more than making decisions; it’s about actively listening to resident feedback and understanding the pulse of the community.

Council should heed the voice of the community and move ahead with a permanent seasonal closure of Maple Street.

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