July 11th Meeting Summary
Last night we had a Council meeting that was fast but dense with content. Here is a summary of what we discussed. Note Councilman Tamburro was not present at this meeting.
We banned smoking last night on Township property - by a vote of 3-1 (Councilman McEvoy voted against the measure). This applies to all Township buildings, fields, open space, parking lots, and parks. It includes the entire Civic Center and all of our fields. Both tobacco and cannabis are banned. Based on a resident's feedback, we struck the word "sidewalks" from the final draft of the ordinance prior to the vote. For me, this is an important public health step that we needed to take, to ensure the health and safety of our employees and residents, especially our children. The Township Manager is developing an implementation plan for this ordinance to help provide education and support for both employees and residents who want to quite smoking.
We also passed two technical ordinances that have been long discussed. The first helped to update and simplify the process of changing the preferred plant selection and placement section of our Zoning code for new development in the Township. This new ordinance allows us to update the recommended plant list every year by resolution rather than ordinance, which is faster and less expensive. The second ordinance established new rules for road openings, primarily to help to regulate how PSE&G operates in the Township. A permit and fees are now required for them to do so, and notice to the Township is required even in emergency situations. I think this is a great ordinance to protect the Township's interests in preserving the investments we make in road paving and reconstruction, as we now have the legal basis to require PSE&G and other individuals who dig into our roads to repair them appropriately. This ordinance is actually very standard across other municipalities, but for some reason Verona did not have it in place.
In resolutions, we authorized the submission of grants to reconstruct/pave Dodd Terrace and Douglas Place. We should hear in the fall if we got the grants from the DOT. We also awarded the VMAC grant for 2022-2023 and authorized applying for a grant for our volunteer fire department.
In New Business we talked about many substantial things that the public should be paying attention to. The first is on 5G and wireless telecommunications facilities. Our new telecommunications consultant Colonel Lupo from Hoplight Communications walked us through two significant ordinances he drafted to regulate 5G and wireless communication facilities. We started the conversation at 45 minutes into the meeting and discussed both for about 1/2 hr. Drafts of the ordinances are in the agenda packet. Overall, we are looking to regulate wireless telecommunication facilities and have the process for their approval managed by the Planning Board. On 5G (or small cell wireless), the way the federal regulations are structured, the approval process is managed by the Township directly. The Council committed to moving this along quickly, so we hope to introduce these ordinances at the next meeting. If this is a topic that interests you, please review these ordinances and send your comments or questions to the Council before the next meeting.
The second significant thing we discussed at the meeting was on regulating sump pumps. One proposed ordinances is simple - it adds a paragraph to our existing ordinance on sewers to ban the discharge of sump pumps into the sanitary sewer system. When sump pumps discharge into the sanitary sewer system it creates issues, including backflow into residential homes and the flooding of our sewer treatment plan. The second proposed ordinance creates a new chapter of our code on sump pumps to regulate both new and existing sump pumps. For existing sump pumps, this proposed ordinance would require homeowners to make some changes to where the discharge is directed if certain conditions are met. Those conditions include if the discharge causes ice, standing water, algae growth, or erosion of the street. If you have a sump pump, or are planning on putting one in, you should review these ordinances and send any questions or comments to the Council, as the plan is to introduce both at the next meeting. Please note, due to a potential personal conflict, I have recused myself from the discussion of the second ordinance.
Last night we also discussed a change to parking on Grove. It has been recommended to us that we remove the time parking restrictions on Grove. Right now parking is limited to 2 hrs or 4 hrs in certain sections near Bloomfield Avenue. We will be introducing an ordinance at the next meeting to remove those restrictions. Again, any comments on this should be sent to the Council before the next meeting.
The last item in New Business was a discussion of an ordinance to change how we hire in the police department. We are proposing opting into the examination exemption of the Civil Service hiring procedures. This will also us to more quickly hire qualified officers, as it will exempt police officers from the requirement of taking the entry-level exams. The effect of this ordinance, should we pass it, will be to open up the pool of applications for our police department so that we can hire from a range of qualified officers. The plan is to introduce this ordinance at the next meeting.
In pubic comment, we got a question on a closed session item that apparently has been causing much speculation. The question was whether or not we are purchasing 174 Sunset Avenue. The Township Manager confirmed in public that we are not purchasing the property - it is being given to the Township for free. The plan for the property is actually to help alleviate flooding issues that occur due to the runoff from the golf course. More on that plan once the transfer of the property is complete.
Finally, we made several appointments to our Boards and Commissions last night, including the Board of Adjustment, Green Team (Sustainable Verona), and the MIAAC.
Any comments on what we discussed should be sent to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.