The following are highlights from the update that Mayor Shelley Brindle gave at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.
I’d like to welcome Kim Forde as our new public information officer. We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of Kim’s caliber and exceptional experience join the team, and even luckier that she’s a Westfield resident who cares deeply about our town.
The last two weeks have brought both joy and sorrow. On the joyful side, I had the great pleasure of speaking to the preschoolers at Precious People to discuss what it means to be a community helper. I also got to kick off the Wiffle Ball tournament to benefit Sister Pat’s Camps, a charity that provides a week-long camping experience to kids afflicted with cancer. The community turnout and team spirit were on full display!
I had a great time meeting with the third graders at Jefferson Elementary where they shared with me their ideas for improving the community. They had great suggestions, which included providing more bike paths, a cleanup program at Tamaques Park and improving parking in our downtown (something that I’ve never heard before!). Congrats to these third graders for their impressive essays.
I hosted a group of sixth-grade boys who have been in the same book club since they were in Washington Elementary together. I showed them the council chambers where they took turns banging the gavel, but the real fun began when they got a tour of the police department. Thanks to Officers Savnick and Ostrander for taking the time to educate the boys, and soliciting a promise from them to never again see the inside of a jail cell.
I had the pleasure of kicking off the annual Greek Fest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, which once again lived up to its reputation for amazing food, music and generous hospitality. Congrats on another successful fun filled weekend!
Congrats also to the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce for the successful opening of the Westfield Farmers Market in a new location at the North Avenue train station lot. With new vendors including organic farms, a beekeeper, fish stand and coffee place, the Farmers Market was the place to be on Saturday morning. I heard from numerous vendors that the new location drew significantly more foot traffic, with many selling out of items. It was so fun to see folks milling about, listening to the band and kids throwing a football on the lawn. I encourage everyone to come check it out on Saturdays, and parking is free on the south side!
Thanks also to the Rotary Club for inviting me to their lunch meeting today. I remain inspired by the values and tenets of this incredible service organization and we are lucky to have such an active group in our community.
A highlight for me last week was officiating my first wedding on Friday night Congrats to Tomasz and Jessica on their wedding, and a big thanks for giving me the privilege of officiating. It truly felt like one of my most significant responsibilities.
I also have to express a deep sense of gratitude to the Martin Wallberg American Legion Post #3 for sponsoring what many thought to be the most memorable Memorial Day service and parade in years. When Allan Betau read the names of the Westfield residents who perished in WWI, along with the tolling of the bells, it brought many to tears. And most moving was when Taps played, echoing across the monuments, in an orchestration that had never been done before. Thanks to Dr. Ted Schlossberg for that stirring musical tribute, and to the participation of the Westfield police and fire departments, the EMTs and to the DPW for making the monuments look so beautiful. The amazing turnout of Westfield residents reflected our gratitude to those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
And on a weekend filled with memories and tributes, many of us attended the wake and services for Detective Eric Lieberman last weekend, a 27-year Westfield Police Department veteran who passed away unexpectedly. The outpouring of support by town employees, our residents, as well as many from surrounding communities brought great comfort to our Police Department, and the service was a memorable tribute that was worthy of the man. Our thoughts continue to be with Det. Lieberman’s wife and the two sons he leaves behind.
On tonight’s agenda is the introduction of an ordinance to regulate and establish certain requirements for short-term rentals in town. This ordinance is meant to address some resident complaints regarding noise and parking from short-term renters. Currently, there is not a law that regulates or prohibits boarder or short-term renters in any way, meaning there is nothing that prevents a home owner from renting out rooms on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. This law is aimed at curbing abuse of short-term rentals and giving our police and zoning officials the tools they need to ensure compliance.
This ordinance does not ban all short-term rentals, as many Westfielders are supplementing their income without any disruption to their neighbors. Completely banning short-term rentals would prohibit this practice, and would also eliminate the ability for Westfield residents to obtain a local short-term rental for things like a home renovation or visiting grandparents. And many of us will recall that when the PGA Open was held at Baltusrol and Plainfield Country Clubs, many Westfielders rented out their homes. We want to strike a balance – curb short-term rental abuse, but don’t kill the practice totally.
An FAQ has been posted on the town website with more information and we’ll be happy to post additional questions as they come in. Tonight is the first reading so there will be time for additional public comment before it is voted on at the next town council meeting in two weeks.