Monthly Archives: June 2013

COUNCIL VOTES TO INTRODUCE ROUTE 71 COMMERCIAL REZONING ORDINANCE.

In a sudden move, and following a contentious discussion that lasted almost an hour, the Council abruptly took a discussion item about the proposed ordinance to rezone residential land along Route 71 into a commercial development zone and passed a motion to introduce the ordinance.

The Council has been split 3 – 3 on the issue for some weeks. Tonight, some Council members took advantage of the absence of Councilman Christopher Tienken (R) to put through the introduction. By law, an ordinance must be heard at two separate meetings to be passed into law. Typically, a discussion is held and a decision made to introduce the ordinance at a future meeting. By suddenly taking the item from the discussion agenda and introducing it at tonight’s meeting, the public was not adequately informed to attend and speak for or against it. A public hearing has been scheduled for July 8. If the ordinance is accepted and passed at that meeting, it becomes law.

At issue is a strip of land along the west side of Route 71 between Allaire Road and Pitney Drive. The lots are split zoned, meaning that the part fronting Route 71 are zoned commercial (B2) for 150 feet west, and the remaining portion of the lot beyond that is zoned residential. It has been hotly debated for some time to make the lots entirely commercial in order to support more expansive commercial development that what the current zoning would support.

The motion to introduce the ordinance was made by Councilwoman Sara King (R), who said she was unsure how she herself would vote on the final presentation of the ordinance after the public hearing but who wanted to “move the process along.”

Councilwoman Patricia Cindea (R) and Councilman Thomas Vorbach (D) argued against introducing the ordinance at tonight’s meeting. They both felt that the Council had promised residents more public forums to express their views and also that no traffic studies or land use studies had been done to support the rezoning to all commercial. They also noted that the Council was awaiting a formal letter from the Planning Board stating whether or not the proposed ordinance was in agreement with the Borough’s Master Plan or not.

Mayor Gavino “Butch” Maccanicco asked Mrs. King if she would consider withdrawing her motion to introduce. She looked down the dais at colleagues Councilman Richard T. Diver and Councilman James Shuler, who both shook their heads to the negative. “I don’t think I can withdraw it,” she said.

The Council voted on a motion to table as put forth by Mrs. Cindea and Mr. Vorbach; that motion was defeated 3-2. The Council then voted to introduce the ordinance and that was accepted by a 3-2 vote with Diver, King, and Shuler voting yes, and Cindea and Vorbach voting no.

Mrs. Cindea then alluded to the fact that residents who oppose the expanded commercial use could circulate a petition to anyone living within 200 yards of the proposed zoning change. If 20% of the residents sign a petition, this will force the Council into a 2/3’s vote situation to pass the ordinance. In other words, 4 of the 6 Council members would need to vote “yes” to make the zoning change happen if enough signatures are gathered. Heightsonline will post updates if a petition drive is started.

The public hearing for the rezoning ordinance is July 9, 2013 at 8:00 in the Council chambers, 555 Brighton Avenue. In related news, the SLH Planning Board is in receipt of a development application from the Amoscato family to develop 4 of the 11 lots in question in accordance with the current zoning. This application will be heard at the Wednesday, June 26 Planning Board Meeting 7:00 PM at the Borough Hall. Interested residents are encouraged to attend. Heightsonline will provide news coverage.