BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township Council is aiming to increase the size of the planning board to potentially give more voices to residents.
The council voted, 3–1, to introduce an ordinance that would increase the number of people on the planning board from seven to nine.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla was the lone vote against the introduction. Council vice president Filipe Pedroso was absent from the meeting.
Mayor Matthew Moench said land use law allows for townships and councils to decide on the size of the planning board.
“I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to increase the size of the planning board to allow for more public input,” he said. “All we have heard the past two years is the desire for more public input, and more geographic areas to be represented.”
“This is the opportunity to do that,” he added.
Moench said the township increased the size of the zoning board from nine to 11 members eight years ago as well.
“This allows more people to have a say in land use matters,” he said.
Resident Jeffrey Brookner spoke out against the ordinance, saying the action is just short of corrupt politics.
“You were elected to these positions and, in due course, will be able to appoint new members to the planning board,” he said of the mayor’s ability to appoint members to the planning board when terms end. “To exercise your own authority before the procedure is supposed to happen is the worst kind of politics.”
“It is disgusting that you are even considering it, and I would encourage you to vote no,” he added.
Councilman Michael Kirsh said he was serving on the zoning board when it was increased to 11 members.
“Every member, either regular or alternate, regularly participated in all hearings, and his or her opinion was taken into account whether or not the votes counted,” he said. “I believe we can be well on our way to a similar collegial matter where more voices are heard.”
“Generally more voices are better, representing more portions of the community,” he added.
Moench said he ran for mayor on a message of taking control and making sure the township would take a different direction in its planing.
“This is one way to do that, and make sure more voices are heard that have not been heard,” he said. “To think that that dilutes the voices of Mayor (Dan) Hayes appointees, that's a benefit as far as I’m concerned.”
Kurdyla did not comment on his vote against the introduction of the ordinance.
Public hearing for the ordinance will be held Jan. 16.