FAIRFIELD, NJ — Among the five ordinances adopted during last week’s Fairfield Township Council meeting was an ordinance related to the sale of marijuana, an ordinance related to a change in the sewer rate, an ordinance to establish a redevelopment zone, an ordinance related to the use of drones and other unmanned aircrafts and an ordinance to allow funding for the second phase of Hollywood Avenue Park renovations.

According to the ordinance as adopted last week, the Township of Fairfield now strictly prohibits “any business that sells medicinal and/or recreational marijuana and/or promotes the use of marijuana” as well as “the use of marijuana, whether it be medicinal or recreational” in all zones of the township.

In response to an inquiry from a resident during the public hearing on this ordinance, Mayor James Gasparini reiterated that the governing body would not be willing to consider providing a medical marijuana facility within the township.

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Scott Linardi and Bonnie Tully of Eric Road, Tim Mariconda and Albert Malet of Fox Hill Road and several other residents attended last week’s meeting to protest the ordinance that would establish a redevelopment zone just before the Gately overpass on Route 46 West near the cigar shop.

Linardi addressed the council saying that although the residential and commercial expansions are “enriching our community’s social and cultural life, while diversifying and strengthening the town’s economy,” it is having negative effects on the ability of the woods to absorb rainfall. 

“During this period of development, my family and neighbors have noticed the nearby woods becoming increasingly wet,” said Linardi.

Linardi was also under the impression that the ordinance would allow the township to replace five acres of woods and greenery with a self-storage facility, but Gasparini explained that the majority of those five acres is too wet for development. There is a small portion that meets necessary criteria, but Business Administrator Joseph Catenaro stated that only 23 percent of that land can be developed.

When the township was writing the ordinance, project planner Allison Fahey of Burgis Associates was called upon for her expertise, and she reported that most of the specified land has limited access and is in wetlands. However, she also explained that a portion does meet Local Redevelopment Housing Law (LRHL) requirements for a redevelopment plan.

The land has been unimproved in more than 10 years and has been vacant for at least 20 years or more, according to Fahey, who also said the land is unlikely to be developed using private capital.

The mayor announced that if any plan is submitted for development, those plans will go directly to the planning board and that all residents within 200 feet of the project will be notified. He also said that any new construction that would worsen the water problem will not be tolerated, but that the developers are also not obligated to make the situation better.

Malet said conditions have been worse recently, and that storm sewers cannot handle the water. He said that property values in the vicinity of Fox Hill Road “have plummeted” because of this, but the mayor disagreed. He and Catenaro said it is possible that excessive rainfall is causing residents to notice more water than usual in wooded areas.

Resident Dan Scirica also spoke on this issue, suggesting that new developments would cause over-crowding issues in the township’s schools.

The mayor reassured the community that this would not be the case, and Catenaro supported this by stating that the 24-unit facility recently built on Two Bridges Road brought less than three children into Fairfield schools. Catenaro reported that statistics from the Institute of Professional Planners show that one-and two-bedroom apartments do not generate large families and that four-bedroom colonials generate approximately 1.9 children, on average.

After listening to residents’ concerns, the council adopted the ordinance, which establishes a redevelopment zone encompassing land on Rt. 46 that backs up to Eric and Fox Hill Roads.

A third ordinance was passed that provides $2.25 million in funding for the second phase of renovations to the Hollywood Avenue Park, which include: expansion of the library parking lot; removal of the basketball courts from the young children’s section to behind the expanded library parking lot; relocation of the Department of Public Works area to the other side; redevelopment of all playground areas; additional seating for parents to watch their children; and new bocce ball courts.

The mayor reiterated that this project is not being done at the taxpayers’ expense. The work will begin in the fall and should be completed by next spring, he said.

A third phase is expected to occur in the future that will include work on the Van Dessel Tract, a girls’ softball field and additional parking.

A fourth ordinance adopted last week prohibits the operation of drones, unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft systems to take off from or land on public property without written approval from the township administrator.

According to the township, the user must have a current certificate of aircraft registration with a remote pilot certificate where required.

The ordinance as adopted states that it is unlawful to have any weapons or hazardous substances equipped on the unmanned aircraft. The ordinance also states that it is unlawful for any person to operate an unmanned aircraft in a manner that violates the privacy of any person or home.

A sewer rate change also was adopted to cover the cost of operating the township’s sewer utility. The previous ordinance stated that the minimum charge per quarter was based upon a water usage of 15,000 gallons per quarter, with an additional charge of $17.50 per 1,000 gallons for use in excess of 15,000 gallons per quarter. The charge for each quarter was based upon the water usage for the first quarter of that particular year.

The new ordinance states that the charge for each quarter is now based upon water usage “of the previous fourth quarter as indicated by the water meter reading; unless, in the opinion of the municipal engineer, water usage from another quarter or portion of quarter provides a better basis for setting the sewer use charge for the year in question.”