NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – The Borough Council may introduce a new abandoned vehicle ordinance as early as the next meeting on Feb. 14. The issue was first brought to the council’s attention in September, and it was discussed again at the Monday, Jan. 23 meeting.
Since September, Borough Attorney Paul Rizzo, Police Chief Anthony Buccelli, Borough Administrator Doug Marvin and Building Official Keith Lynch have done extensive research on how abandoned vehicles have been dealt with in neighboring towns and how the ordinances are enforced. “We looked at a bunch of different municipalities to come up with an ordinance that is fair,” Mayor Al Morgan said. However, the issue is complicated. The borough fears that a poorly worded ordinance will lead to expensive lawsuits.
The planned new ordinance will include a definition of what constitutes an abandoned vehicle. Councilman Jim Madden suggested that the ordinance proposal should be tweaked a little more before it will be placed on the council agenda.
In September then Councilman, now Council President Gary Kapner explained that there are 24 abandoned vehicles in the borough. However, there are not enough resources in the construction department to enforce all violations and follow the notices up with legal action. He asked how far does the council want to go in enforcing codes and would the council be willing to expand its work force to better police property maintenance issues.
New Providence is for the most part a very well maintained community; however, an abandoned vehicle can be an eyesore in the neighborhood, and negatively affect property values, Marvin stated in September.
Code violations are brought to the attention of borough officials mostly via complaints by neighbors. The borough then sends a notice and typically gives the resident 10 days to resolve the problem. The borough officials are also willing to listen to residents as they explain the reasons for violating the codes. Sometimes there is a circumstance that resolves itself within a short period of time, Marvin explained in September.
Borough resident Ray Borgersen approached the council at the Jan. 23 meeting and urged the council members to adopt a resolution to resolve the eyesore vehicle issue. In October, Borgersen had sent a letter to Morgan after bringing his complaint to the attention of the police department. He noted that code No. 253, which is applicable to abandoned vehicles, was revised in 2014. However, even the revised language was not enough to enforce the removal of the eyesore next to his property.
Borgersen explained that he has lived in his house for 35 years and has been looking at the abandoned car in the neighbor’s front yard for 25 years. “It is frustrating,” he said. In addition to the unused vehicle, the same neighbor has three other vehicles, one of which has been parked on the lawn due to the lack of adequate driveway space. “I wouldn’t mind if the vehicle had been in the backyard,” he said.
Borgersen said that if he was to put his house on the market potential buyers would walk away after seeing the mess next to his driveway.
“I understand that it is a problem. We are between a rock and a hard place.” Hopefully, we can come up with a reasonable solution, Morgan said.