MILLBURN, NJ - Local officials plan to meet with residents, state legislators and officials and the construction company building a house on Dorison Drive where blasting into bedrock is being proposed.
The meeting could take place Wednesday or Thursday of next week, and administrators promised to give public notice several days in advance.
The Millburn Township Committee made the decision at Tuesday’s meeting, after hearing from an organized group of neighbors. About 40 people showed up to protest the proposed blasting at 30 Dorison Drive, which is reportedly to accommodate a home theater on the lower level.
Also attending the meeting were three state legislators—Sen. Richard Codey and Assembly members John McKeon and Mila Jasey, who were contacted by local leaders.
Township leaders have been advised by their attorney that the use of explosives is regulated by the state, and any municipal action is superseded by state authority. In addition, they were told if an applicant can comply with regulations, the state is obligated to issue the permit.
The applicant must also apply for a permit from the township’s fire marshal, who is obligated to issue the permit if the applicant meets fire regulations. The local official can approve, deny or ask for further information from the applicant.
Members of the governing body asked residents to submit a list of their concerns to the marshal, so he can determine if they are being addressed.
During the discussion with the legislators, which lasted over an hour, Codey noted the state statute regarding explosives dates from the 1960s. A consensus developed that for the long-term, the law should be changed to protect residential homeowners.
“Unfortunately, the long-term won’t help the short-term,” Mayor Sandra Haimoff said, noting attempts by other nearby towns including South Orange and West Orange to block blasting have been overturned by the courts.
Meanwhile, residents continued to voice their concerns. Bryan Bloom of Sinclair Terrace referred to the previous committee meeting, where leaders said their hands are tied.
“I respectfully disagree,” he said. “You can say no. Towns deny applications all the time.”
Bloom expressed concerns about effects on the water table, environment and utilities.
Barry Weinstein of Dorison Drive wondered aloud how much time residents have to take cover and where they should go. He also worried about potential damage to pools, foundations and furnishings.
Mary Ho of Dorison Drive cited instances of dynamite use in other states where residents were not adequately protected by insurance companies. She also expressed skepticism with relying on state guidelines or blasting companies to adequately protect homeowners.
“There are alternatives to blasting,” she said.
Gina Abrams of Fairfield Drive urged all concerned to move forward in a collaborative tone. Haimoff also left open other possibilities.
“A perfect way to stop this is to have a conversation with the builder or homeowner,” she said. “It’s certainly worth a try.”
She also said she would reach out to the Essex County executive, to see if he could exert some influence, since the property backs onto the South Mountain Reservation.
In other business, the committee introduced two capital ordinances, a bond ordinance and a traffic ordinance.
The first of the capital ordinances, in the amount of $1.2 million, provides for equipment and machinery for the fire, police and recreation departments, seal coating of various roads, improvements to public buildings and the reconstruction of the parking lot at the Municipal Par 3 Golf Course. Those improvements are being made as part of the township’s 20-year capital plan.
The second capital ordinance, in the amount of $250,000, provides for the resurfacing of the parking lot at the Millburn train station. The bond ordinance, in the amount of $857,800, provides funding for improvements to the Gilbert Place sanitary sewer pumping station, reconstruction of Hartshorn Drive from Parsonage Hill Road to Slayton Drive, reconstruction of Knollwood Road and acquisition of a new senior citizen bus.
Committee member Thomas McDermott pointed out the township will be receiving grant money for several of the projects.
The traffic ordinance, which regulates the intersection of Essex Street and Lackawanna Place, provides that the northerly westbound lane of Essex Street be reserved for right turn only onto Lackawanna Place.
Public hearings on the proposed ordinances are scheduled for June 18.
The committee also awarded a contract for reconstruction of the Taylor Park dam to Beaver Electric Co. of Roseland. The contract will be for $383,500.
Also at the session, the committee awarded community service awards to residents Lois Cantwell and Andrea Hirshfield. Two years ago the women co-founded bookBgone, a media removal and clearinghouse service for unwanted books, CDs and DVDs. The items are sent to various organizations such as community centers, charter schools, literacy programs and food pantries.
The women were commended for keeping books out of landfills and giving them to people who need them.