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  • Writer's pictureChristine McGrath

January 22nd Meeting Summary

Updated: Jan 25

On Monday we had a pretty significant meeting. Here are the highlights.

We are required by the State of NJ to update our stormwater ordinance. Climate change is here, and for our area that means increased rainfall. The new ordinance will update the assumptions baked into stormwater management plans on how much rain to plan for when creating new developments or redevelopments. For Essex County, the rainfall assumptions have been increased by 6% for the 100 year storm. Additionally, future stormwater systems also have to account for what rainfall will look like in 2100, where rain estimates are expected to increase a whopping 33%. The new ordinance also refines what major development is to capture smaller projects.

On top of the required changes, Verona's existing and proposed stormwater ordinance will go ever further. We require stormwater remediation on "minor" projects as well, which are 400 square feet or 2,500 square feet of disturbance. That remediation may be smaller-size solutions such as rain gardens or pervious paving systems. These rules are meant to help curb flooding throughout town and recognizes that every addition and patio built makes an impact.

Finally, the new regulations will require that Verona monitor the maintence of these systems (both existing and future), which generated a lot of conversation at our meeting. The stormwater systems are not worth anything if they are not maintained, and the State is requiring oversight in this area. While I totally agree with the philosophy behind the State's reasoning, this is another example of the State pushing more responsibility onto local government, and the costs for extra staff members to monitor this will need to be paid for by fees and other means. This is going to require significant staff time.

This new stormwater ordinance will be introduced at the next meeting.

At our meeting we then had a very significant conversation on Everett Field and the ADA playground that we are planning to build there. As part of the meeting we did have a formal hearing on applying for a grant to the New Jersey Green Acres Program for a fully inclusive ADA playground as part of the Everett Field project. The grant application we are making is for $674,400.00. The state is investing a lot of grant money for ADA playgrounds, so this is a great opportunity.

In addition to the hearing on the playground, we saw updated plans for the entire Everett Field project, which you can review here ( There are three significant changes with this revised plan. The first is that the field size has been reduced from the first draft to something closer to the current footprint, which helps to minimize disturbance of existing trees and slopes. The second is that the plan sticks with a grass field, and does not install artificial turf. The third is that traffic will not be exiting onto Westview, but we will have an emergency exit there for first responders. The plan also includes bleachers, a two story snack stand and announcing booth, ADA walkways, shade trees, and a new parking lot. Right now the project costs are at $3.5 million (before the 20% contingency), and we are applying for a lot of grants to offset that cost, including the playground grant mentioned above. If you look at the project cost estimate, the majority of the costs are related directly to the costs to renovate the field itself, add a parking lot, and ensure ADA compliance.

We received a fair amount of public comment at the meeting, both for and against this project and the playground. We also had a lot of council discussion. Deputy Mayor McEvoy is not in favor of having an ADA playground at Everett Field as part of this project at this time, and he voted against us applying for the grant. Other Council members stated that while they are voting for the grant application, they are concerned about the playground and other aspects of the cost of this project.

I stated in public that we have playgrounds associated with all of our major fields, and that adding a playground in the Laning section of town is a huge asset for families. As any parent knows, the school playgrounds cannot be used during most of the week, but having a neighborhood playground that you can walk to will be popular. Families who attend baseball games will also heavily use this playground, which will be fenced in. Younger siblings of baseball players are currently playing in the parking lot during games, which is not safe.

In addition to those comments, while I am neutral on whether we add turf to this site or grass, I do want a full financial analysis of the cost differential between the two surfaces. This includes not only the cost to install the surface, but then the annual maintence costs, and the expected life expectancy of the two products. The Administration will be pulling that together for the Council.

I encourage residents to watch the video of this section of the meeting, because many Council members got on the record on their concerns for the project, and there is a push amongst some to take away elements of this renovation or scale it back. The video starts 35 minutes into the meeting here, but continues through some other conversations (and Councilmember reports) until 2 hrs into the meeting. After watching the meeting, I would like to hear feedback from all residents on this project, but in particular residents who live in the immediate neighborhood, families from the Laning area, and residents whose children are part of the baseball program. I encourage public comment by sending the entire Council an email at

Moving on, we passed two significant resolutions on Monday night. The first is to request of the Planning Board to evaluate if the entirety of Bloomfield Avenue is an area in need of rehabilitation. The second was to ask the Planning Board to do an evaluation of a property on Church Street as an area in need of redevelopment. This property is an unusual shape, and the developer approached the Council regarding doing the study. Depending on the results of both analysis, we can explore certain strategies (zoning and tax) to spur development and redevelopment. More on that once the analyses are complete.

As part of new business (2 hrs 10 minutes into the meeting), we also had a significant conversation on increasing parking fees. After a good discussion, we landed on increasing parking fees from 25 cents per 40 minutes to 25 cents per 20 minutes, or 75 cents per hour. The hours of enforcement will be from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday. The Council received an extensive analysis from our Deputy Township Manager that shows that 75 cents per hour and the hours it is enforced are in line with surrounding towns. We are planning on installing new parking kiosks in our municipal lots to replace the parking meters that are there. It was also suggested by the Mayor that we consider expanding parking rates to Saturdays. Overnight parking permits will also increase across the board, with the annual rate going from $250 a year to $375 a year. I suggested to the Administration that they discuss these changes with the business community prior to introduction, so that we get their feedback on all of these changes. Residents with feedback should share it now by reaching out to us here:

We have a jam-packed meeting on Monday February 5th. We will be discussing the water and sewer utilities and pool rates for the 2024 season. The pool continues to have financial challenges, so this conversation on rates will be robust. We will also have the final vote for the funding for the ADA playground at the Community Center. I hope residents participate in person or online!

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