Last night we had our one and only Council meeting for October, so it was very lengthy. Thank you to the residents who stuck around to the end. If any member of the public has a question but could not stay up for public comment, please feel free to email us at https://www.veronanj.org/council.
There was so much meaningful content last night! Here are some highlights.
Several professionals came in to update the Council and public on key initiatives at the top of the meeting, and three of the presentations directly dealt with our water system. Of critical importance was the Water Utility Asset Management Plan. This plan is required by law, and it should have been completed in 2019. What the plan does is document all aspects of our water utility, including the location, age, and expected condition of our pipes. The Plan has a recommendation and cost estimate for what the Township needs to do to adequately maintain the system. Some highlights on what we discussed last night: we have two critical pipes that need to be replaced first - one under Pompton and one under Verona Park. The locations of both pipes will make them complicated and expensive to fix. Overall, like many other water systems, we don't have great records on all of the aspects of our water system, and we need to improve that. We need to update our GIS mapping of our system. Finally, we don't have good records to prove we don't have any lead service lines in the Township, and we need to develop a plan to create that documentation. The plan will be posted to the Township website for the public to review - and I encourage you to do so.
The Council then got a full update on the PFAS Remediation project (1 hr 10 min into meeting). We discussed the proposed designs for the treatment of our water at both the Fairview Avenue and Linn Drive wells. The Linn Drive well has the space for additional equipment, and we need to put in a system to treat both PFAS and arsenic, which has been detected in the past. The Fairview Avenue well will required us to build a pre-engineered building to house the new treatment system. The location of that well was built on Green Acres, so we need to get approvals from the State before we can move forward with construction. At this time the project managers are currently conducting rapid small scale column testing to determine which treatment medium is best to remove the PFAS containments. We expect that we could possibly start construction on the Linn Drive treatment system in August of 2023, for completion in April 2024. Due to the Green Acres issue, Fairview Ave well construction is TBD. No costs were provided with this update, but once the treatment method is finalized we will get an update with pricing.
Water pressure issues with the Claridge apartments was the third water issue discussed (35 min into the meeting). We received an update that the Township should build a pumping station to help create a booster zone to resolve water pressure issues that exist. At the next meeting we should have a resolution to bid out the work to engineer the solution. Our Township Manager will be meeting with representatives from Claridge apartments to discuss the issue further.
Last night we passed an overlay zone in the location of Bloomfield Avenue between Montrose and South Prospect in order to satisfy our obligations on Fair Share Housing. As was discussed at the meeting, the new zoning would make it easier for a potential developer to propose a mixed use project on the site that includes both retail and apartments. A portion of those apartments would need to be affordable housing. The Township has not received a proposed project from a developer for that site. At the meeting our legal council updated that drafts of our Housing Element and Spending Plan are currently being reviewed by our administration. Both are required pieces of our agreement with Fair Share Housing and need to be completed as soon as possible.
Steve Neale, Director of Administration and Economic Development, provided a post-one year Ida update (1 hr 40 min into meeting). There were several highlights on what the Township has done to address flooding. Our department of emergency management developed a stormwater planning guide for future predicted flooding events to better prepare and coordinate a response. This includes working with the County to lower Verona Lake levels so that the lake can be a more effective retention basin. We are putting in additional drainage at Sunset and Wayland to help to mitigate issues of water coming off the golf course and are actively working with the golf course to guide them on how to improve their drainage. We have applied for technical assistance from the DEP to do flooding resilience planning. Several projects addressing the Peckman and bank stabilization have occurred or are ongoing, including the introduction last night of a capital ordinance of $70K to do additional, more permanent bank stabilization by Bloomfield Avenue. We do need to do a lot more work in flooding prevention and management, so expect more discussions on this in the future.
Last night we approved an ordinance to fully finance the pool renovations ($800K) and we passed a revised version of the wireless communications ordinance to address some minor issues. In addition to what was already referenced above, we introduced a capital ordinance of $25K to develop a water/sewer risk and resilience assessment and emergency response plan. We also introduced an ordinance to put several stop signs on White Rock Road. All proposed ordinances will get a hearing and a vote at our next meeting in November.
Under new Business, we had a significant conversation on cannabis. We discussed concerns we had with allowing a dispensary in town, which seemed to focus on zoning this type of business in the right location. In particular, traffic and parking are a main concern, and a desire to keep the business away from residential areas as much as feasible. We asked our administration to work with a Planner to give us technical advice on how to potentially zone for this.
Some final rapid highlights on things discussed at the meeting:
It was mentioned the pool tennis courts may get a skim coat to repair them, but ultimately a plan will be developed to move the tennis/pickleball courts to the lower side parking lot at the pool and transform the existing courts into pool parking, adding 30 spaces.
We accepted a generous $10K grant from Unico to install a flashing beacon light in front of FN Brown School and we passed a necessary resolution so that this safety element can be added soon.
We canceled almost $500K in old ordinances, including funds that were set aside for a pool parking lot on Fairview (that never happened) and Cook Lane reconstruction.
Derwent Street reconstruction contract was awarded.
Codification of the MIAAC committee will be postponed for six months, but we will renew the committee via resolution at the next meeting so that they can continue operating through 6/30/22.
We asked the administration to once again re-right the proposed ordinance on block parties to meet the Council's desire for a simpler approach.
The Council received an update from the Mayor and myself on our Health and Wellness subcommittee recommendations.
There was so much discussed! Please do not hesitate to reach out to the entire Council with comments or questions: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.