Berkeley Heights Council Tables Decision on Zoning Fees

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Construction Official Robin Greenwald addresses the Township Council on July 10 about why she feels zoning permits and fees would be beneficial if introduced. Credits: Deb Dawson
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BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Not a lot got done at the Township Council’s Tuesday, July 10 meeting. Five ordinances were scheduled for introduction and all but one were tabled until a future meeting, largely because council members did not have enough advance information to vote knowledgeably on them.

An ordinance amending the township Land Use Procedure Ordinances by adding terms and requirements for zoning permits and fees was tabled because the council could not reach a consensus. Fees proposed for permits go from $10 to $400, where no permits or fees are required now. It was put off until the next meeting scheduled for July 24 when Councilwoman Jeanne Kingsley will be on hand to vote. She was absent at Tuesday's meeting.

Council Vice President Craig Pastore said, “I’m not for the zoning fees, period. I don’t think at this point we should be charging anyone any more money.”

Councilman Edward Delia noted residents would be charged three times for the same work – once for the zoning permit, once for the construction permit and a third time for when the property is reassessed for the improvement.

Councilman Thomas Pirone said he did not support zoning permits for anything except as they may apply to public safety.

Councilman Robert Woodruff thought aesthetics should apply as well.

Council President Kevin Hall said, “I support the concept of zoning permits… that people make sure they confirm to the laws of the land… (but) I do not support generating fees (or) charging commercial (enterprises) rates that are not (the same as) residential.” Later he said he supports charging fees but he is concerned about the costs associated with being a commercial enterprise.

Construction Official Robin Greenwald put forth several arguments in favor of various clauses of the ordinance. “If someone owes on their real estate taxes you can hold up their permit. We (already) get a sign off from the zoning officer, which is a zoning approval, not a zooming permit. The zoning officer does a lot of work. You’ll be able to break down everything he’s doing and track zoning permits. It’s more of a formality and becomes an official action of the township.”

When asked, she said the clauses of the ordinance she felt to be most important are:

• Non-residential (commercial) and multiple family parking lot resurfacing/restriping which would cost $100 for under 5,000 square feet of pavement and $250 for a larger amount.

• Residential decks, stairs, portico and fences which each cost $25, because they take up so much of the zoning officer’s time.

• Zoning review for CO/CCO at $50 for residential and $150 for commercial.

• Signs at $50. Note there would be no charge for lawn signs.

She said currently there are permits required for sheds, signs and fences.

The council could not reach consensus and decided to leave things as they are until the seventh member is available for a vote.

An ordinance amending the code of the township to revise the terms of probationary period for new township employees was tabled after resident Carol Metula noticed an inconsistency in how sick leave is applied to those still under probation.

Council members were surprised to find sick leave was applied at all, and expressed shock that each permanent full-time employee with five or more years of continuous service is credited with 60 working days of sick leave at full compensation, in addition to regular sick leave accrued at the rate of three days as of Jan. 1 and an additional one day per month there after at the end of each month worked throughout the year.

Greenwald asked the council to consider that “as public employees we are not covered by state disability. If we get sick, we can’t get anything until we are eligible for Social Security disability. (The time accrues) is our only protection.”

Township Attorney Jospeh Sordillo will redraft the ordinance as it applies to non-union employees.

An ordinance revising speed limits on portions of Roosevelt Avenue, Snyder Avenue, Park Avenue and Plainfield Avenue was tabled because no back-up traffic studies were provided to the council for them to consider.

An ordinance amending the township’s current salary ordinance updating the salary ranges for various positions was tabled because it also included some union-governed positions and should not have.

The only ordinance that was introduced, with a public hearing set for Tuesday, July 24, amended regulations governing conditional uses in the light industrial zone. Specifically, it governs the parking of school buses and commercial vehicles in the zone.

Toward the end of the meeting, Council Vice President Craig Pastore said, “We’ve had all these ordinances thrown at us this week. I think it makes sense for the council to get background information before something makes it to the agenda.” All agreed and will henceforth receive details on the Thursday prior to the meeting.

OTHER BUSINESS

  • Township Administrator Amey Upchurch told the council that “reverse 9-1-1” will be in full swing by September. Details will be discussed at an August meeting, but she said the program will only be used in emergency situations.
  • Mayor Joseph Bruno was scheduled to meet with the Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday, July 11, regarding actions that might be taken to prevent flooding of the Passaic River and its tributaries.
  • The Planning Board will meet tonight, July 11, to discuss the light proposed at the new CVS.

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