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  • Writer's pictureChristine McGrath

June 3rd Meeting Summary

On Monday night we had a meeting, and all of the meaningful discussions took place in new business.

We had a conversation about changing the zoning for the C2 Zone to include co-working spaces and assisted living facilities (about 40 minutes into the meeting). These recommendations were born out of our Master Plan. We were presented with a first draft of the changes to the zoning. Expect it to be introduced at an upcoming Council meeting, and then it heads to the Planning Board for review. If you live adjacent to a C2 zone, you will really want to pay attention to this process and participate by attending Council and Planning Board meetings. The C2 Zone is on Grove (near boarder of Cedar Grove), Pompton, and areas of Bloomfield. Click here for a full Zoning map:

At 1 hr into the meeting we had a public hearing on diverting some Green Acres property near Hillwood Terrace Park (122 Fairview Ave) for the purposes of adding the treatment facility for our water well to remove the PFAS contaminates. Several residents came to the hearing and asked questions. We saw a map of where the treatment site will be and had an overview of the Green Acres diversion process. Comments on this project should be sent to the Municipal Clerk in the next two weeks to be included in the Township's application to Green Acres for the diversion. More information can be found here:

At 1 hr 44 minutes into the meeting we had a short conversation on adding a stop sign at Claremont and Cumberland and expanding no-parking zones on Park Avenue by Sunset Ave and Porcello Lane and Montrose Ave by Hill Street. We are also considering adding a no parking restriction on the North side of Bloomfield Avenue near Derwent Avenue from 7 am to 9 am. These changes will be introduced at the next meeting. If you have any questions, please send them to the Council.

Our final discussion was on potentially moving Verona's non-partisan May municipal elections to November. I encourage residents to watch this 30 minutes of discussion, which you can find here: June 3rd Meeting Recording

I was asked to start off the conversation and summarize where we are at. At our last meeting we had a robust presentation from our Municipal Clerk on why the May 2023 election cost the township $75,000 (see my previous post here). We had follow up questions from my peers regarding the potential cost savings of consolidating election districts. Since our last meeting, County election officials confirmed that any consolidation of voting districts results in more machines being used at each site, and there will be a cost to Verona for staff for those additional machines.

I stated in public my opinion that we should have a non-binding voter referendum in November asking the public if we should move the May election to November. I believe this decision is best made by the voters, as it is their election. In addition, changing the election is a decision that cannot be undone for 10 years, and the transition, if approved, would involve giving the entire Council a 6 month extension in our terms. I also stated publicly that the Township should take a neutral position on this referendum, meaning we should not say "vote yes" or "vote no". We should present voters with the history of why we have the May election, the cost analysis done by the Clerk, and the pros and cons of moving the election.

Every Council member then shared their opinions on both moving the election and having a voter referendum. This is where a lot of statements were made, some of which are, in my opinion, not accurate nor feasible. There is still a fixation on consolidating election districts, but my Council members do not understand the election statutes and therefore their ideas cannot be implemented. There were concerns raised that adding the local election would create "ballot fatigue" and that the stress of voting for one more thing would result in November voters just giving up and not voting for Town Council or Board of Education positions. While I am sure "ballot fatigue" exists, I am personally skeptical that Verona voters wouldn't be able to complete a ballot just because we added one more position to vote on.

However, the main objections raised to moving the election from some of my colleagues is that moving the election to November would be a threat to its "non-partisan" nature. As the public knows, we have been voting for non-partisan BOE positions for years in November, so it is my opinion that voters understand the difference between partisan state elections and non-partisan local elections.

One other concern raised was that May voters are better informed than the voters in November. The Mayor stated that he knows "for a fact" that "a lot" of voters in the Board of Education election make uninformed decisions. This idea was expanded on by him in the last 5 minutes of the meeting when responding to a resident comment. Comments were also made implying that May voters are the "optimal" voters because it is assumed that they are all doing a high level of research when they vote. I believe the implication is that the November voter does less research and cannot be trusted to vote on town council elections, but residents should listen to the meeting themselves to draw that conclusion.

I am in agreement with some comments made by my peers that one of the benefits of having the May election is that it's the only election happening, so there is a level of focus and attention that is given to it by voters. If we moved to November, the fact that state elections would be going on, including a Governor's race, may make it a bit more challenging to get local messages out. However, is that downside worth a cost to the Township of $75K a year? This is why I think we need to ask the voters what they would prefer. Neither May or November elections are perfect - both have pros and cons. It's time for Verona voters to look at this issue and let us know how we should proceed.

If you would like to see a voter referendum in November to give the public a chance to weigh in on this before our May 2025 elections, please send a comment to the Council using this form here.

Finally, we did approve all resolutions, including recognition of Gun Violence Awareness Day, which is on Friday June 7th.

Any comments or questions should be sent to the entire Council here.

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