In his time on Millville’s town council, Cliff Toomey has noticed something that has continually bothered him. At the council meetings and town workshops on proposed developments and ordinances, the appropriate town officials attend, along with members of the media, but most Millville residents are missing.
Toomey allowed that some residents do attend, but he could probably count them on both hands. And although his time on Millville’s town council is now over, after less than a full two-year term, he still holds out hope that Millville’s residents will take more of a part in their town government.
“My leaving hope would be that the people of Millville would be more involved in their town,” Toomey said, “make sure the town is being developed by their vision.”
Toomey said that although they are developing with good intentions, the town’s makeover has been envisioned by a few developers and town officials. Since joining council late in 2004, Toomey has voiced his opposition to the growth and density in the town, vocalizing a very personal opinion.
Toomey lives on Burbage Road and his home borders the proposed commercial and residential development Dove’s Landing, which would sit right off of Route 17. And his property is less than 500 feet from the town’s proposed master planned community, Millville by the Sea. And the fact that he hasn’t sold his property is proof enough that he is against its adjacent explosion of high-density development, he said.
“You have a lot of people say that they are against high-density but they’re land merchants,” Toomey said. “I’m probably the only person that has held public office that has walked the talk.”
Toomey said that although he has a personal stake in the fight against local development, he is not against the developers. Nor is he against public officials or residents who encourage such development. He just wants to hear opinions from more residents, whether they be for or against the town’s biggest issue of the time.
“I think the mayor and town officials are trying to get it out,” Toomey said. “But the people need to get involved. The only thing I’d like to see happen is people will become involved and see if that’s what they really want.”
Gary Willey, Millville’s mayor, agreed. Although he said that participation has increased and he has seen more than 20 residents at most of the town’s recent meetings, he would like more participation, as well.
“The participation is a whole lot better than it used to be,” Willey said. “(But) we don’t see a whole lot of people. We all ought to be concerned about the growth. I agree with him.”
Still, despite his concerns about the town’s growth and participation in government, Toomey said he enjoyed his time on the council and labeled it a “learning experience.”
While serving as the town’s treasurer, he organized its tax invoices, helped install a Quickbooks system for payroll and started working with an accountant, leaving the town’s books in an organized and professional manner.
“He did a good job and we appreciate him donating his time,” Willey said. “We were tickled to death that he came on board.”
But as he departs from the treasurer spot and the council seat he has manned for almost two years, leaving with Joan Bennett set to take over, Toomey said he hopes that Millville residents express their concern, or even their gratification. But, as he said, maybe they already have.
“If people are concerned about the growth, they could be present,” Toomey said. “Maybe I was out of step. That was one of the reasons I stepped aside.”