Hi, I'm Jason
I’m Jason Hyndman and I’m running for Town Council this May. I’ve lived in Verona for the past four years with my wife Gina and our two kids Abby (8) and Jax (4). We love Verona because of the warm community, the amazing public schools, and walkable neighborhoods. We're also obsessed with the beef bulgogi dish from Bloom.
As a native New Jerseyan and life-long resident, attending college and playing soccer at Rutgers University was a no-brainer. Having met and fallen in love with Gina my junior year, the diploma was only the second most valuable thing I left school with. In furthering my education, I remained loyal to the Garden State, graduating from Rutgers Law School in 2011.
Now, as a practicing attorney, I advise municipalities in various aspects of redevelopment and land use planning, satisfying affordable housing obligations under New Jersey’s Fair Housing Act, and navigating the general procedural requirements faced by local governments. Likewise, I represent State agencies, municipalities, and private entities in litigation arising out of redevelopment, zoning challenges, and land acquisitions. I’ve also found ways to lend my expertise to the community, by volunteering time as a member of the Verona Planning Board, as well as Vice Chair of the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission, which is an alternative land development review board that focuses on construction design and compatibility in Montclair’s historic districts.
When I’m not working, I enjoy playing soccer, road running, family hikes, and nice IPA afterwards.
My vision for Verona includes:
Modern, Cohesive Planning and Zoning Reform
The overdevelopment of mid-rise apartments happening in Verona is the unintended but foreseeable result of our outdated and overly restrictive zoning ordinance and master plan. Rather than plan for the future by giving residents and business owners the flexibility to adapt to the inevitable evolutions of technology, lifestyle, and the economy, our existing master plan and zoning ordinance looks to the past in the hopes of freezing the existing built environment in place. That is not working and now the pressure from pent-up residential demand and constitutionally required affordable housing has exploded in the form of large-scale redevelopment projects.
We can potentially avoid future development mistakes by accepting that as the country and the state grow and evolve, so must Verona. By adopting smart growth principles, we can sustainably manage that growth by encouraging gradual and predictable development through flexibly zoned areas that are uniformly applied. For example, transitional zones that focus more on regulating building sizes rather than uses, allowing for development of 1- to 4-family homes within existing building footprints in locations that bring more pedestrian traffic to the downtown. Comprehensive general zoning reform would replace the Town’s practice of adopting single-site redevelopment plans that create special rules for favored developers. Under this comprehensive approach, the benefits of redevelopment flows to the existing owners, distributes the increases in property value more equitably, and incentivizes gradual, organic growth. This comprehensive approach to redevelopment goes hand-in-hand with Verona’s obligation to provide affordable housing. Rather than subsidizing the construction of a 100-unit apartment complex, affordable units can be distributed evenly throughout the transitional areas.
Balanced and Environmentally Sustainable Development
Smart growth includes sustainable, environmentally-friendly building practices. LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world and can be included in the Master Plan update to provide the Planning and Zoning Boards with guidelines for reviewing development applications. Where appropriate, certain standards can also be included in the zoning code and redevelopment plans themselves. This will lower energy costs for residents in the long-term and can reduce the indoor pollution that leads to increased asthma risk in our children. Verona can lead by example by investing in renewable energy generation on public facilities and integrating green infrastructure in future projects on public properties.
Often, the greenest building is the one that’s already there. Where possible, we can encourage adaptive reuse of obsolete structures by providing density, height, or floor-area (FAR) incentives to reduce building footprints and impervious coverage.
Support Our Top-Ranked Public Schools
We need to support our school system by saying “no” to PILOT agreements that reduce school funding in most cases.
On the subject of reopening schools, I support working collaboratively with the Superintendent, Board of Education, VEA, and the Montclair Department of Health to provide a Covid-safe, full-day reopening plan that is consistent with CDC and NJ Department of Education guidelines.
Making Verona Safer for Pedestrians and Friendlier to Local Businesses
In order to preserve our small-town neighborhood character and charm in the post-Covid economy, we must prioritize a walkable local business environment that links retail, dining, recreation and open space. Unless we’re willing to build centralized parking garages like Montclair and Millburn, generating a customer base for our businesses by catering to convenient automobile access is not an option.
To generate demand in the short-term, we should permit more outdoor commercial activity on sidewalks and even temporary use of on-street parking spaces (with temporary barriers) to allow additional space on our sidewalks. In the long term, we can employ a “complete streets” strategy - widening sidewalks, incorporating buffers between sidewalks and streets, replacing on-street parking to support bike lanes on certain streets, and requiring scheduled road maintenance projects to include pedestrian crosswalks. We can also slow traffic and make our streets safer through traffic-calming striping and permitting citizen art projects for intersection murals like those in Montclair.
Building a Diverse and Inclusive Community
Verona has the opportunity to be a leader in embracing the diversity of our community:
Putting policies in place to address and eliminate implicit and structural biases in public employment.
Supporting our police department’s efforts to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to evolving transparency and community policing standards.
Reforming our building and housing policies to comply with both the spirit and the letter of the constitutional affordable housing mandate.