Last night we had a Council meeting. Here are the highlights.
The Council voted to approve two ordinances - one to spend $323K for new police radio and computer equipment and the second to establish a new part of our code on Veterans so that we can clarify when certain veterans receive their property tax exemptions. We also introduced a capital ordinance to increase the spending by $25K for ADA improvements that are being made to Town Hall, for a total cost of $220K. The construction on that project is starting next week and should last 30 days.
Under resolutions, we approved a settlement with Marve Corporation (located at 251 1/2 Grove Avenue) regarding longstanding issues with the property. The agreement stipulates the the property owner will do the following: all storage pods will be removed from the property by Dec 31, 2022, landscapers and fabricators/vehicle repair contractors will vacate the property by Dec 31, 2023, no new tenants will utilize the property in any manner not consistent with our current zoning, and all non-conforming uses will be brought into compliance by Dec 31, 2023. I am thrilled that we were able to settle on a timeline to remediate these issues for our residents. The settlement agreement is available to the public for any resident that wants to review it further.
The Council also approved a resolution (by a vote 4-1) to make certain changes to the agreement with our developer of our affordable housing, located at the old Cameco site. The first change we allowed was an extension on when we will convey the property to them from this fall to April 30, 2023. As has already been discussed, the developer needs additional time to secure financing for this project due to interest rate fluctuations and construction cost changes. In addition, we clarified that the Township will reimburse the developer for any additional environmental remediation on the site. At this time, there may be the need to remove some soil from the site, for a cost of $350K, but whether or not that step needs to be taken won't be fully known until testing is done.
We had a lively conversation on a new ordinance regulating street closings for block parties (around 1 hr 15 min into the meeting). We were presented with what we all agreed was an overly restrictive first draft of an ordinance setting a new permitting process, establishing fees, and clarifying liability. The Administration is going to re-draft and come back with something less restrictive at a later date. At the end of the day, we do have an issue with block party street closings, especially when residents apply to close the street the day before the event. The Township needs more time to review safety and logistical issues. If you have any questions on how to apply for a block party, more information is here: https://www.veronanj.org/clerkforms. Please apply 3-4 weeks in advance.
Finally, jumping to content from the start of our meeting, we had two important discussions in the first 1/2 hr. The first was on cannabis. As the public may be aware, the Council was approached by two Verona residents who have a micro-license to establish a cannabis retail business. They have asked us to review our prohibition on this type of business. The Council last night asked our Administration to engage an expert in this area to give the Council a level-setting presentation on regulating cannabis on the local level: what is the current state of the market, what are the expected financial benefits to a municipality, and what are the decisions that a municipality could make. I also asked that we hear from our Police Department on the safety component of establishing one of these businesses in our community. Additionally, the Administration is reviewing the specific business presentation in front of us, and after we have this level setting presentation we could then have a more detailed conversation on the business presentation before us. All of this will take place at our next meeting on Monday, September 19th at 7 pm. As always, you can listen to the meeting and participate both in person and online.
As a reminder, any changes we make to cannabis regulations is an ordinance change and a zoning change, the latter of which needs to go through the Planning Board. Needless to say, there will be plenty of opportunities for public comment, and you should feel free to send comments to the entire Council by going here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform
The second project discussed at the beginning of the meeting was on the baby pool renovation to add a zero entry pool and splash pad. The Council saw the construction documents so that we could review the specific features of the splash pad and discuss the color palette of the shade features and splash pad items. Construction will start at the end of the pool season.
We approved all other resolutions on our agenda.
Any comments on anything discussed at the meeting should be sent to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.