NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Borough Council appears to have reached a compromise regarding the abandoned vehicle ordinance language. “It is not going to be perfect,” Mayor Al Morgan said at the Monday, April 3 council meeting. However, the council agreed that the latest draft is “better” and it will be voted on at a later meeting.
The council has discussed abandoned vehicles at almost every meeting this year, going back and forth on the definitions and means of enforcement. The council’s idea has been to enact a reasonable ordinance that is enforceable and that will not subject the borough to unnecessary lawsuits. The council had another round of discussion regarding the revised ordinance draft at its March 13 meeting. The council had previously modified the language of the draft taking into account potential conflict of private property use and extending the remediation period to 60 days.
During the March 13 discussion Council President Gary Kapner depicted a hypothetical scenario where a home owner has an unregistered antique vehicle underneath a fitted cover while the engine is being worked on for six months. According to the draft at hand this case would be in violation on the ordinance, Kapner concluded. Councilman Jim Madden extended the scenario by asking what if the entire block has multiple old car collectors. “We want to be reasonable”, he said. However, he added that too lax wording can be taken advantage of.
“We want to improve property values” and provide the neighborhood with a mechanism to address the issue of abandoned cars if such a case arises. The council agreed that the idea is not to have borough officials going around neighborhoods looking for abandoned vehicles. The enforcement will be driven by neighborhood complaints and the ordinance will guide the borough in case of disputes.
During the public comments session at the Feb. 27 meeting Mountain Lakes resident Fred Kanter provided the council with his town’s abandoned vehicle ordinance that appears to stand legal scrutiny. He had stated that the government can only regulate possessions on private property when they are deemed hazardous to the health of the neighborhood. During the March 13 discussion Councilman Michael Gennaro suggested that the Mountain Lakes ordinance be used as a model, and the ordinance language made “a little bit simpler.”
Councilman Robert Munoz said that he thinks the Mountain Lakes ordinance is “vague.” Munoz explained that if a dispute regarding a vehicle arises borough officials can then determine whether the vehicle is abandoned or not, as in the hypothetical example given by Kapner. Borough Attorney Paul Rizzo then suggested adding “presumptive language” to the ordinance.
Madden noted that the March 13 draft had “phraseology” from ordinances used in other municipalities without them becoming subject to lawsuits. “We can’t be afraid to enforce our ordinances,” he said.