SUMMIT, NJ - The Summit Common Council, at its first meeting of July, adopted a $1,000,000 bond ordinance providing financing of road improvements on Dorchester, Winchester, Plymouth, Sweetbriar Roads as well as Tanglewood and Silver Lake Drives.
However, the ordinance also included provisions for special assessments of residents along the affected streets for replacement of damaged curbing with Belgian block that would be included as part of the road improvements.
Residents of the area, however, questioned why they were being assessed, the cost of each assessment, and asked why, if their curbing needed to be replaced, they could not do so on their own as long as they complied with City specifications.
City engineer and Community Services Deputy Director Aaron Schrager explained that only property owners with residences in front of which damaged curbing had to be replaced -- or in front of which Belgian block was to be installed to complete the road improvements -- would be assessed for the cost.
He added that the cost of each individual assessment would not be known until bids actually were received on the project, a process that could be several months away. At that time, he added, the actual overall cost of the curbing would be determined and divided among the affected properties to produce the assessments. Additionally, assessment hearings will be held at that time and input from all affected property owners will be sought.
City administrator Michael Rogers added that the bond ordinance acted on at the July Council meeting only was providing the mechanism for the City to seek financing of the overall project, which already has been approved as part of the City’s capital budget.
Ward I Councilman Robert Rubino added the rationale for assessing individual homeowners for the curbing improvement was that the new curbing added value to their property.
That rationale often has been opposed by Ward II Councilman Patrick Hurley, who chaired the first July meeting in the absence of Council President Michael McTernan.
Hurley called the assessment process “obsolete,” and noted it is used by very few other municipalities in New Jersey. He added that individual homeowners in Virginia, his state of residence before coming to Summit, 22 years ago, are not assessed for such improvements.
He also repeated, as he has said in the past, that he did not see the reasoning for saying Belgian block added value to a property. Hurley said, however, that he could see the value of the curbing in preserving newly-surfaced roads.
In response to a suggestion by one resident, Schrager did say that it was possible for individual residents to purchase and install their own Belgian block, provided they obtained a free City curbing permit and complied with City specifications.
He added, however, that, by bidding the project as a whole, the City most likely would receive a much better price than individual residents and the work would be guaranteed by City maintenance and performance agreements. The engineer also said residents who had any questions about the assessment process should contact his office and a staff member would be glad to discuss the process with them.
Additionally, at Hurley’s suggestion, Council public works chairman Richard Sun agreed to explore the process of residential assessment for sidewalks and curbing at a meeting of his committee.
In the end, the bond ordinance was approved unanimously 5-0, with Council member Mary Ogden also not in attendance at the meeting.
On another topic, Republican Council-at-Large candidate David Dietze said he and his Republican runningmates, during their campaign, had gone door-to-door in the streets surrounding the City transfer station and residents had raised a number of concerns.
Among the concerns:
- Residents believed many drivers going to and from the transfer station exceeded the speed limits. Dietze suggested greater police enforcement of the limits and perhaps painting speed limits on the streets.
- Trucks using the station were exceeding weight limits.
- Residents of communities outside Summit, who did not have permits for the transfer station, often used the facilities.
- Residents believed their voices were not heard when they made complaints about the facility.
Police Chief Robert Weck replied that members of his department had met with community residents on several occasions to discuss their concerns. He added that at least three traffic studies had been done in the area and the average speed was only a mile or two over the posted limit.
Ward I Councilman David Naidu, who lives in the area of the transfer station, agreed that the police had addressed resident concerns after the residents appeared before the Council last year.
When asked the engineer about City improvements in monitoring vehicles using the facility, Schrager replied that the City’s new license plate recognition system made it possible to determine when non-residents and those without permits were using the facility. The offenders then would be warned not to use the Transfer Station or asked to purchase permits, he said.
On another matter, the Council voted to accept a donation by Rubino to the City -- valued at $150 -- of hydrophobic coatings, which are invisible substances that can be applied to City streets and will become visible only when it rains.
Rubino explained the substance would be used to spray paint the “Summit Flame” on central business district streets near city hall in order to spread the City brand and increase an awareness of art in the business district. Each application is estimated to be 3' x 3' in size.
If the experiment is successful the substance could be applied to other City streets.
Naidu praised Rubino for his donation, and said it would help attract shoppers, who, in the age of Internet shopping, were looking for an “experience” in order to attract them to the central business district.
The Council also adopted an ordinance limiting parking to two hours on Sheridan Road from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
Sun said the ordinance was necessitated by resident complaints about an overflow of student parking from Oratory Preparatory School.
Naidu noted, however, that Oratory had come before the planning board asking for more parking only to find later that the area designated on its campus for student parking was not sufficient to accommodate all student drivers.
Weck agreed, but pointed out that his department was trying to work with Oratory so the school could find a solution to its own parking overflow parking by establishing a lottery system or some other method of allocating spaces.
He noted that, of 16 residences on Sheridan Road, those living in 12 of the residences supported the parking restrictions.
On another topic, the Council voted to authorize execution of a 2016-17 Senior Focus Grant application with Union County, which would provide $25,000 toward the senior lounge in the to-be-renovated Summit Community Center.