NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Another discussion on the proposed abandoned vehicle ordinance at the Monday, Feb. 27 council meeting resulted in a u-turn as the council sent the ordinance back to the drawing board for further amendments. The borough has been working on the issue for nearly four years.
The council stumbled again into wording of the proposed ordinance. Councilman Michael Gennaro pointed out discrepancies in the ordinance wording and asked whether the new 60 day window should apply to all conditions listed in the draft. He also wanted to know if references to vehicle insurance and registration should be even mentioned. The council also debated on the ordinance enforcement issues. According to Borough Administrator Doug Marvin the issue has always been a police matter because police officers are familiar with the vehicle registration and insurance regulations.
However, Borough Attorney Paul Rizzo, who has attended many meetings regarding the proposed abandoned vehicle ordinance told the council that Police Chief Anthony Buccelli is “adamant” that the issue belongs to the zoning officer. On the other hand, the Zoning Officer Keith Lynch sees the issue as a police matter, Rizzo said.
Borough Administrator Doug Marvin noted that since the issue has already been discussed multiple times with both Lynch and Buccelli the council should make the decision regarding the enforcement entity. Mayor Al Morgan said that the issue sounds to him like a zoning matter. He then asked that council members state their views regarding enforcement. Councilman Madden noted that when it comes to insurance and registration issues the enforcement should be considered a police matter. Other councilmen saw it as a zoning matter. Councilman Robert Robinson noted that the council had earlier discussed of potentially hiring a constable to enforce the zoning violations. The council agreed that a constable does not have police credentials and therefore the ordinance enforcement should be a zoning matter.
When the public comments session opened Mountain Lakes resident and antique car collector Fred Kanter came forward to give his two cents regarding the proposed ordinance. Kanter said that he has successfully taken similar ordinances to court. He pointed out that police cannot inspect vehicle registrations on private property. He said that the local or state government cannot regulate what is on private property. He pointed out that if the government was to regulate what can be on the front lawn of a private home, it could ban anything – Adirondack chairs, poster beds or tea cups on the table etc.
However, the only way government can control material or items on private property is when they are deemed to be hazardous to the community. Kanter provided the Mountain Lakes ordinance that has the proper language as follows: “Vehicles and other items of personal property stored outdoors shall be maintained free of broken glass, excessive peeling of paint, or other conditions reflecting excessive weathering, deterioration, or inadequate maintenance. These items shall be stored in such a manner that safety and fire hazards are eliminated and adjoining properties in the neighborhood are protected from blighting influences.”
Meanwhile, Ray Borgersen, who has urged the council to come up with an abandoned vehicle ordinance, told the council that the vehicle that has been sitting on his neighbor’s front yard for 35 years has now been removed.