LITTLE FALLS, NJ - An ongoing traffic safety issue was discussed during the public comment portion of the recent Little Falls Township Council meeting on April 17. Several local residents stood up to complain about commercial trucks that have been parked and idling along the Wilmore Road and First Avenue vicinity.
Barbara Moschetta, local resident, said there's a safety issue at hand in the residential section of the neighborhood located adjacent to the Schumacher Chevrolet car dealership, where trucks continue to park to load and unload in the vicinity.
"They come out by the park, where parents park their cars to take their children to play," said Moschetta, referring to Wilmore Park. She informed council members that she has a video capturing the situation. "I have complained to the police department about the problem. I'm aware of what the law is in the state that parking is 50 feet from the sign. These trucks probably park within 50 feet of the sign and I can understand them trying to inch forward because the park is populated with families."
Moschetta commented on the car dealership's business with allowing the trucks to load in the area.
"It's up to three trucks at a time loading, but most of the time it's two," she added. "It even happens during the first day of school where trucks are loading when buses are trying to pick up children. Doesn't anybody pay attention to the calendar and to the time of day?"
Don Handel, another local resident, also commented on the issue.
"I've been thinking about this for several years. I've lived on First Avenue and then moved to Second Avenue and it's just been crazy," he said, and agreed with Moschetta with her point on the traffic safety hazard. "This was last minute that we put this together to come up here and I bet you we would have 100 people here."
He praised the neighborhood as being "the nicest area of the town" but that the commercial trucks are ruining it.
"It's beautiful, except these trucks - they shouldn't be there," he added.
Councilwoman Maria Martini Cordonnier said the council would be discussing the situation.
"We're looking at in terms of being respectful of certain days, such as first day of school," she said. "If there is a school bus pick up there, they need to be cognizant of those kinds of things and issues."
Cordonnier also verified with Chief Steven Post that the trucks should be parking 50 feet away from the stop sign, 25 feet from the crosswalk. Carriers parked legally are not violating any traffic rules, she said. In addition, there is a fire hydrant on the west side of the roadway, which parking within 10 feet is prohibited.
"I believe we put a sign there so that there was no confusion as to where a truck was allowed to park," she added. "We totally have to address that. It's unusual that there would be more than two trucks. Maybe we can find a way to make it work out better."
Mayor James Damiano said the statute has to do with interstate commerce.
"You cannot prevent a truck from using our own roads, which is what this ordinance does, because we have an influx of traffic throughout the municipality," he emphasized. "By law, you cannot prevent a truck from coming through because of local business. There's nothing we really can do at that point as a municipality."
According to state regulations, engines idling for both diesel and gasoline vehicles are limited to three minutes with limited exceptions.Violations can be issued by the NJDEP, county environmental health officers, or local police departments. However, municipalities are limited to enforcement power as to whether or not a motor vehicle is emitting in excess of NJDEP standards, according to Damiano, due to not having the tools to measure those emissions.
"It's difficult to measure," he said. "Personally, the number of times I have been there, I have not noticed the trucks there idling." He added that Wilmore Road and Main Street are county roads and under the county's jurisdiction.
Damiano also added that he and Chief Post have met with the owners of Schumacher Chevrolet, located a 8 Main St., on separate occasions.
"We discussed some possible solutions that would eliminate the vehicles from unloading on our streets," he said. 'It may take some time for that to be accomplished but the Schumachers said they're willing to work with the community."
According to Chief Post, there is no enforcement capability to prevent the trucks from idling based on a section in New Jersey's statue (NJSA 39:3-70.2).
"I personally have not seen trucks idling, however, that may occur from time to time, especially during the winter months," Post explained after the meeting. "We will monitor that issue and if observed we will make requests the engines be shut off during off load. As always we take all quality of life issue seriously and will work with the community in an effort to resolve any issue as best we can within the scope of our authority.
Another topic during the public comment portion of the meeting dealt with the allowance of public comments during certain parts of workshop and regular council meetings. Arnold Korotkin, local resident, said he was concerned that non-agenda public comments were allowed only towards the end of a council meeting.
He commended that the council reinstituted the procedure to have two opportunities for public comment during the regular council meetings. However, he questioned why the first public comment is limited to "agenda items only."
"I'm requesting that the council allow the first opportunity for public comments to address 'general matters,'" he said. "Sometimes, a meeting can go for two hours and I'm not sure why a general comment couldn't be up front," he said. "My other concern is about commenting on agenda items before the items are discussed. I'd like to have some public comments before you discussed the items. Also, perhaps there's a way after each agenda item, as it's discussed by the council, to allow for public comment right then and there, and then go on to a subsequent one."
Cordonnier replied that the council determined that it would serve the public better to answer each individual and offer some conversation back and forth for expediency.
"We certainly will look at that, in terms of changing that," she noted. "I would also like to get feedback on each items before I either say yes or no, so we have discussed the potential of doing that."
Speed Limit Change/Open Space Improvements
Cordonnier also commented on recommendations for updating the speed limit by changing it to 25 miles per hour throughout the town.
"The transportation committee will be prepared to give our recommendations for updating," she said. "That will help with issues of traffic so we're hoping for that in the next meeting."
Cordonnier also said that the open space committee will be moving forward with adding more decorative streetlights in town that match the lights the streets have in the Morris Canal, town halls and Memorial Park, stemming from open space funding from the county.
New garbage cans are also in the works to replace the current cement ones.
Wildlife Control Issues
Councilman Christopher Vancheri commented on the deer population and said that he had a meeting with the Clifton Animal Health Department, which the township has a shared services agreement with.
"I sat down with them, along with Mayor Damiano, and we went through a number of different concepts and ideas as to how to take care of the deer problem," Vancheri explained, adding that a deer culling, similar to the one Passaic County conducted several years ago, would not be an option.
"We have had some discussions with the county but nothing is currently being done," Vancheri said. He also said Canada goose feces was also a topic recently discussed. Among the problem spots in town was at the field located at the Little Falls Recreation Center.
"I was there on Saturday during baseball and every other step I took was lined with it."
He added that the township was considering having a goose chasing dog just like Passaic Valley High School has been using with great success in recent years.
Vancheri and Cordonnier also added that information needs to be given out to residents about the dangers of Lyme disease when feeding deer and that people need to be aware of certain hazards in when it comes to coming in contact with wildlife.
Council members also highlighted the recent Town Tasting event held at The Falls, presented by Little Falls Alliance for a Better Community (ABC) and Easter egg hunt held at the Little Falls Recreation Center. They also previewed the upcoming Memorial Day Parade.