SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Citing the number of false alarms that require a police or firefighter response, the Board of Trustees introduced an ordinance that would require residents to register alarm systems and would fine them for an excessive number of false alarms.

On Monday, the board voted, 6-0, to introduce the ordinance governing alarm systems and set a public hearing and vote for Monday, Feb. 9.

Trustee Sheena Collum, chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, noted that there were approximately 1,300 calls for service that turned out to be false alarms in 2014.  If the ordinance passes, owners would need to register their alarm systems by Jan. 1, 2016.

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“This is a significant amount of police officers’ time,” Trustee Deborah Davis Ford noted.

Registration is necessary in order for the village to contact the owners or companies. Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. said that often, the homeowner is not on the premises when an alarm goes off. “We don’t know how to contact anybody to shut it off,” he said.

The ordinance applies to local alarms, which are those that produce a bell or other noise audible beyond the property limits, and central-station alarms, which send information to individuals at a remote location.

Among the provisions of the ordinance;

  • All alarms must shut off automatically within 15 minutes of being triggered. Police and/or firefighters are authorized to enter the property to shut off alarms that violate the time limit, and the village will not be responsible for any damage caused by gaining entry to the premises.
  • Owners whose systems trigger a false alarm will be fined $100 for the fourth occurrence within a calendar year, $150 for the fifth occurrence and $200 for each false alarm thereafter.

Trustees voted to introduce two other ordinances at Monday’s meeting. One clarified the zoning designation of the Orange Lawn Tennis Club if it were to subdivide its property and sell off a parcel. The second would address problems with sight lines at intersections where bushes block a driver’s view of cross traffic.

ORANGE LAWN TENNIS CLUB ZONING

The owners of Orange Lawn Tennis Club are considering selling a portion of the property to a developer who wants the land in order to build up to 27 townhouses, according to Trustee Mark Rosner.

Lewis said that the overall property is currently zoned for multifamily use, but what is not clear is what the zoning designation would be if the property were subdivided. “(This ordinance) simply says you can have a club on part of it and multifamily on part of it,” he said.

One neighbor of the property, Joan Youell, said the property is “completely surrounded by single-family residences.” She added that although the club said it needs to sell the land to keep the club afloat, the town is not obligated to help the club with its financial problems.

“It’s operating as a private facility and not offering any services to the residents,” she said.

Rosner said that passing the ordinance would not be “carte blanc to go ahead” and build townhouses. “They would still have to go before the planning board (for) a full hearing,” he said.

SIGHT LINES AT INTERSECTIONS

Trustee Sheena Collum said that while the ordinance is designed to make sure drivers can see cross traffic at intersections, “this one is really complicated.” The ordinance establishes a way to calculate sight lines at intersections where the streets do not form a simple 90-degree angle.

It allows the police chief to determine if bushes or trees at an intersection create a traffic hazard and authorize the village to require the homeowner to trim or remove the growth. If a homeowner fails to take action, the village is authorized to remove the growth and, if necessary, to conduct a survey to establish the limits of clearing. The homeowner would be responsible for the cost.

Although the calculation of sight lines can be complicated, Collum said homeowners should use common sense. “If you see accidents in front of your home … that might be an indication that you need (to trim the shrubbery),” she said.