SUMMIT, NJ - Convening just one day after the General Election, the Summit Common Council's meeting appropriately began with Council President David Naidu opening the November 6 session by congratulating to Mayor Nora Radest, Ward 2 Council Member Stephen Bowman, and Council Member at-Large Beth Little on their reelections and recognizing the two newly elected Ward 1 Council members, Democrats Danny O'Sullivan and Susan Hairston.
Two Law & Labor ordinances previously introduced by Bowman were heard. The first reduces, by 80 percent, the permitted distance between establishments selling liquor from 1,500 feet to 300 feet, with Council having the ability to waive or amend the distance requirement. Many licensed properties are already closer than 1,500 feet, and the intent of the ordinance is to make the rules consistent with actual practice.
Ward 1 Council Member Mike McTernan suggested that the density restriction be eliminated, saying the Council is “micromanaging where businesses can be established.” Naidu countered that their predecessors on Council likely wished to avoid creating a “Skid Row,” adding that “just because times have changed… that doesn’t mean the need for reasonable regulations has disappeared.”
Bowman pointed out there are no restrictions on the spacing of businesses like nail salons. He also noted that by state regulation, the City is currently limited to nine consumption licenses (restaurants/bars) and six distribution licenses (liquor stores). Those numbers are tied to population figures.
Greg Vartan, Ward 2 Council Member, referenced the Broad Street redevelopment and the desire of citizens to maintain Summit’s character. “I would generally agree with you that it should remain in the City’s control to regulate what types of businesses we want in town. However, with the number of alcohol sellers limited by regulation, he said the 300-foot rule seems “a little arbitrary.”
Ward 2 Council Member Marjorie Fox disagreed, saying the current ordinance lacked a waiver provision, so “we’re creating a process. … If we find ourselves inundated with waiver requests, we have the ability to change it again.” Bowman cautioned that if there are no parameters defining the waivers, future councils may be open to challenges on what is approved or not. Naidu concluded that government regulation is a “line-drawing exercise.”
Ultimately, the ordinance passed unanimously.
Bowman’s second ordinance makes Summit’s fees for towing and storage vehicles consistent with those charged by the NJ State Police. This brings the City in line with a 2018 amendment to the NJ Predatory Towing Prevention Act. It also passed unanimously.
Fox introduced a half-dozen Capital Projects & Community Services ordinances.Three of them propose restrictions on single-use plastics by businesses. If passed, the new rules will go into effect six months after passage. During those six months, Fox said, the City will be educating businesses and residents, noting that there has already been considerable public outreach on the topic. Overall, she characterized the community response as positive. The use of plastic bags and polystyrene increases recycling and waste disposal costs, and has public health implications when it breaks down into microparticles. While the state has not yet taken formal action, more than 40 municipalities have. The first ordinance puts restrictions on the use of single-use plastic check-out bags at the point-of-purchase by retail establishments. The ordinance does include exceptions for items such as produce, newspapers, and dry cleaning.
A second ordinance requires businesses to provide plastic straws or stirrers by request only, with some exceptions, and the third places restrictions on the use of polystyrene (Styrofoam) food serviceware. Business can receive a short-term exemption to use up existing supplies of bags and foam containers.
The three ordinances will be heard at the November 18 meeting.
Fox also introduced an ordinance under which the City would pay the full cost of sidewalk installation, while property owners will be responsible for maintenance. Property owners are currently assessed for half of the cost of sidewalk installation. This will also be heard at the November 18 meeting.
Her remaining two ordinances will be heard at the December 3 Council meeting. One authorizes the sale of 71 Summit Avenue, the old Town Hall, to Family Promise for the appraised value of $1.4 million. The sale was previously authorized pending a use variance, which was granted by the Zoning Board on November 4. Under the contract terms, the building will revert to the City if it ceases to be used for non-profit purposes, and no changes may be made to its façade without council approval. The other seeks approval of the revised Development Regulations Ordinance (DRO). At the completion of the 2016 Master Plan process, the Planning Board determined the DRO needed to be reviewed and amended – a comprehensive review last occurred in 2003. The new DRO will be streamlined and more user-friendly, and will include design standards and sustainability principles. The draft is posted on the city website. After introduction, the DRO will go back to the Planning Board for a determination that it’s consistent with the Master Plan. That will happen on November 25; the public will have an opportunity to comment then. After the consistency review, council will hold a public hearing on December 3. Fox thanked the Planning Board and the staff of the DCS for their efforts throughout this lengthy process.
Vartan moved a single Community Programs & Parking Services to resolution rescind the contract to resurface the community pool, authorize a new bid advertisement, and authorize interim repairs. A contract had been previously awarded to All State Technology Inc. However, upon further inspection, it was discovered the project is more extensive than originally thought, making it necessary to re-advertise the projected work. Until a new bidder is chosen, interim work must be done to keep the pool usable. Vartan said there would be a pre-bid conference where contractors can see the scope of the needed work.
Fox’s busy night continued, as she moved seven Capital Projects & Community Services resolutions. The first authorized an agreement with JCP&L for installation of LED lights at the Summit Free Public Library and YMCA parking lot. The 10-year contact comes to $1,345 per year, similar to the cost for sodium-vapor lights. Fox explained the LED lights provide better illumination for pedestrian safety with lower energy usage and lower expenses.
Her next resolution authorizes an agreement with K&R Real Estate LLC to place a deed-restricted affordable housing unit at 412 Morris Avenue and the payment to satisfy K&R’s affordable housing obligation for its New England Avenue project.
Next was a resolution to enter an agreement with Union County to place a rectangular rapid flashing beacon at the mid-block crosswalk at Briant Park and Springfield Avenue.
Fourth was a resolution to award a contract to North American Pipeline Services for $46,577.60 for cleaning and camera inspection of sanitary sewer lines in the southwest section of the city. Fox termed it “preventive maintenance.” It will be funded by the 2018 Sewer Utility budget.
Next was a resolution to award a bid for the New Providence Avenue improvement project to S&L Contractors for $220,430, including resurfacing, curbs, and storm water management. It will be funded by the 2019 capital budget. The road leads into the Transfer Station.
Also moved was authorization for the state contract purchase of digital radios for the public works department. The contract is worth $90,093.45. They will initially be put in 29 critical vehicles, including snow removal vehicles, and allow communication with the dispatch center and emergency responders. Included are base radios for multiple sites and for key responders. The analog radios being replaced will be sold at the next municipal auction.
Fox’s final resolution approves a consulting contract for $99,000 with Mott McDonald for multiple tasks related to the Park Line project. During public meetings to discuss the project, community and council members raised questions about design and construction. The work to be done by Mott McDonald aims to answer those questions. While the contract will be administered by the City, it will be funded by the Park Line Foundation. Naidu called this an “important step” towards addressing issues raised earlier, allowing the project to move forward. Vartan reminded the public, particularly those living adjacent to the Park Line, that activity they may be seeing is merely investigative work, not further development of the project yet.
Vartan moved a trio of Safety & Health resolutions. Two approved accepting donations – $4,000 from Atlantic Health System to the Fire Department to offset some training costs, and $24,400 gift from a local charitable foundation to purchase a 2019 Harley Davidson police FLHTP Electra Glide motorcycle and two helmets with radio systems for the Police Department. This would be the SPD’s second motorcycle. Bowman observed he’d seen a motorcycle officer patrolling on Tuesday, despite the crisp weather. Naidu said he’d told Police Chief Robert Weck that Summit was having its “own version of CHiPs here,” referring to the late-‘70s cop show starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as two crime-fighting, good-deed-doing California Highway Patrol officers. Laughter broke out when McTernan jested that “nobody got that reference,” and Vartan, the youngest Council member, jokingly added, “I had to Google it.”
Vartan’s third resolution authorized applying for a grant from the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety for the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” year-end holiday crackdown program. In the amount of $5,500, it would pay for targeted patrols from December 6 through January 1 to identify impaired drivers.
All resolutions passed.
During public comments, a group of Butler Parkway residents came forward to ask about needed traffic safety improvements on their street. Nicholas Fahey noted that drivers don’t respect the 25-mph speed limit, endangering pedestrian. Acknowledging that the City is already working towards a solution, he suggested measures including a sidewalk along the full length of the street, stop signs, speed humps, and narrowing the road in places. Fahey noted 11 young children live on Butler Parkway.
Department of Community Services Director Paul Cascais replied that there are plans for road improvements on Butler in 2020 that will include pedestrian safety upgrades, including sidewalks and pavement markings. Before the city begins work, there will be a public meeting to allow residents to review and comment on the plan.
McTernan added that technology plays a part, mentioning that the Waze navigation app routes drivers onto Butler. Vartan added that the city can also provide targeted enforcement. In addition, Summit is working to become a Waze partner community.
Presentations and Proclamations
There were two ceremonial presentations early in the evening. Radest accepted an American flag from Emilio Eriksen, parking enforcement officer and US Army Reservist. He served as first lieutenant security force officer in command of the Department of Defense’s Strategic Detention Facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Radest presented a proclamation to Jose Aguiling, partnership specialist for the US Census Bureau, naming April 1, 2020, as “2020 Census Full Participation Day” in Summit and pledging the City’s full support to a thorough and accurate count of all Summit residents. Aguiling thanked her for the city’s commitment to achieving the goal of counting everyone “once, only once, and in the right place.” He called the process “safe, easy, and important,” noting that for the first time, respondents will be able to answer the census questionnaire in three different ways – online, by phone, or by mail – and that individual information is secure. At stake is $675 billion in federal funding and the number of seats in the House of Representatives.
Naidu closed the meeting by noting this was Ward 1 Council Member Stephanie Gould’s last meeting. He thanked her for stepping in to help the Council in the wake of the sudden passing of her husband -- former Ward 1 Council Member Matthew Gould . Naidu expressed his gratitude for helping the Council accomplish things in the past few months “as if Matt was still with us.”
He adjourned the meeting as Gould and Little tearfully embraced.