MAPLEWOOD, NJ - The Maplewood Township Committee passed four ordinances on second reading and three more ordinances on first reading at its September 17 meeting.  The ordinances passed on second reading included the permitting of serving and allowing the consumption of alcohol at public locations subject to approval and a ban on parking gasoline-powered cars in electric-vehicle charging spaces, while all of the new ordinances that were passed concerned electric cars.  One such ordinance defines electric vehicles as being fully chargeable cars and excludes gas-electric hybrids, another sets guidelines for installing charging stations in the township, and the third allows charging stations in all zones in town.  They all passed unanimously, 5-0.

The meeting, which lasted a little over half an hour, was largely devoted to discussing two other items – a resolution supporting the phase-out of the contract between Essex County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that allows for the detention of immigrants at the county prison in Newark.  The county has had the contract with ICE since 2011, and it was renewed in 2016 with an expiration date of 2026.

Maplewood Township Committeeman Dean Dafis advocated for the resolution, saying that the county should withdraw from the contract in a phase-out plan that allows immigrants to be processed and have their cases heard and also improves their conditions, as opposed to an immediate cancellation of the contract that would leave immigrants without any recourse whatsoever. The plan, Committeeman Dafis said, would accommodate current immigrant detainees by giving them access to legal assistance, providing computers to facilitate their case applications, train prison guards in dealing with detainees in a more humane way, and provide more outdoor space in the correctional facility for immigrants to use. 

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“I think this does a good job of taking into account the input we received from some of our community,” Committeeman Gregory Lembrich said, noting that Committeeman Dafis’s proposal sets Maplewood’s objectives to encourage action from the county in a clear way.  Committeewoman Nancy Adams praised Committeeman Dafis for his efforts to “bring back humanity.”

Committeeman Dafis was proud of his efforts.  “It certainly falls in line with who we are in Maplewood and in Essex County,” he said.   “In other words, sanctuary places for all immigrants regardless of their citizenship status.”   Rather than wait for a future meeting, the committee immediately passed a resolution calling for the contract phase-out with ICE, 5-0.  The county forecasts a $42.7 million payment from ICE in 2019 for housing the detainees, a payment that critics of the program have called “blood money.”

Committeewoman Adams led the second discussion, regarding efforts to rein in plastic waste in the form of single-use plastic products such as bottles and straws.  She proposed revisiting a 1990 ordinance banning environmentally unfriendly packaging such as polystyrene and amending it to include single-use plastic products. She cited similar bans on single-use plastic in cities such as San Francisco and bans on automatically handing out environmentally unfriendly single-use products in restaurants. Committeewoman Adams added that the ban on single-use plastic bags that went into effect has been received positively and said that the township should go further.

“While education is important,” she said regarding the need to get people aware of environmental problems posed by single-use plastics, “I think we’ve seen that education is one thing but regulation is required.”  The committee will seek advice on how to move forward from the Environmental Advisory Committee.   In the meantime, Mayor Vic DeLuca called on a local supermarket in town, which he did not name, to be brought to task for continuing to put items in plastic produce bags despite the town’s ban on such plastic bags, as well as giving away small paper bags when there is a five-cent fee in Maplewood on paper bags distributed by grocery stores.   Mayor DeLuca said that the supermarket should be reprimanded sooner rather than later.

As the mayor detailed the supermarket’s flouting of the plastic ban, Committeewoman Adams simply responded, “That’s disgusting.”

The committee adjourned and resumed meeting as the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) to hear a request for a person-to-person and place-to-place transfer of a liquor license to KV Liquors LLC, a limited-liability corporation opening a liquor store in a building at 1830-40 Springfield Avenue at the interaction with Oberlin Street.  Krishna Verumi, the LLC’s owner, is planning to renovate the space and hopes to appear before the Maplewood Planning Board for a site plan approval, but Mayor DeLuca and his colleagues were reluctant to approve of the license transfer without one.  Mahesh Rajan, Verumi’s attorney, argued the ABC only needs to know if the liquor license application meets the alcoholic-beverage regulations, but the committee countered that the site plan needed to be looked at to see if the store is to be compatible with its surroundings and provide parking and loading facilities that would not have a detrimental effect on the neighborhood. 

Verumi plans to arrange the site so that access would be strictly limited to Springfield Avenue, with only exiting traffic permissible onto Oberlin Street, and the front entrance would be directly accessible from the parking area on the side of the building.  But without proof that residents of the neighborhood got certified letters informing them of the proposed liquor store, Mayor DeLuca said that he was more comfortable tabling the measure until Verumi and Rajan could provide evidence of contact with the local residents.  Committeeman Lembrich added that he was comfortable with a person-to-person transfer but, given the ambiguities of Verumi’s plans for the site of his store, he was less comfortable with a place-to-place transfer.  The measure is tabled until October 1.         

Also, Maplewood Police Officer Peter Klebauer was promoted to sergeant via a resolution passed by the committee, 5-0, in its first order of business.  Township Clerk Elizabeth Fritzen swore in Sergeant Klebauer the moment after it was passed.