Zoning Fees Come Under Fire at Berkeley Heights Council Meeting
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 • 7:56am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – An ordinance introducing new zoning permits and fees came under fire from both the Township Council and residents at the council’s Tuesday, June 26 meeting. The general feeling from all was that it represents unnecessary additional taxation when permitting should be included as part of the township’s services and included in the municipal tax.
Councilman Robert Woodruff said, “It’s a fine line when you talk about fees. They’re all taxes. I fully appreciate (the question) at what time does this stop? We do have codes. We do want to govern the way we live and the way we look. It’s an argument we shouldn’t have to pay any fees unless they are part of one’s taxes. When you question one, then you have to ask if you need it. I think we owe it in deference to what (the residents) said. I would urge all of us up here to carefully look at this and find some way to finance it.”
The ordinance was unanimously tabled and will come back to the council with revisions, however Mayor Joseph Bruno said, “We do not want to burden the public with inordinate fees. I support pulling it. But when you do something to a property (for which there) is a fee and someone is making sure it’s done correctly (it’s beneficial). There are only user fees if you do something. We have to look and see that what we’re doing is right.”
He said the township did a comparison of the fees proposed with those of other surrounding municipalities and Berkeley Heights is not out of line.
Part of the reason for establishing fees is to extend Zoning Officer Thomas Bocko’s job from part-time to full-time. Bruno said on Tuesday the number of requests on Bocko’s time has increased and he has received complaints from Zoning Board members, residents and a couple of contractors who think things are not moving fast enough. Although the council was generally in favor of doing this, the question arose, “Where are we going to get the money?”
The proposal was tabled until the next meeting so the financials can be researched. Michel Marceau was hired as the township’s new full-time chief financial officer at the meeting and Bruno asked him to make it his first order of business to find the money. Marceau’s salary is $86,400. He has a four-year contract.
The council is requesting a traffic study done by Hilton Homeward Suites for a traffic light that has been proposed at the corner of Springfield Ave. and Lone Pine Drive. Springfield is a county road and the county, not the town, has jusrisdiction. Council members Jeanne Kingsley and Edward Delia strongly opposed the light, which was first mentioned at last week’s Planning Board meeting.
“I was at the Planning Board meeting and I was shocked when I heard about the light,” said Delia. “I thought it was CVS that wanted the light there. Every resident I’ve talked to since then was shocked. I think the traffic light will severely impact the downtown area. I hope we would have some say. It’s our residents.”
Council President Kevin Hall suggested the council get a copy of the traffic study “to see how it relates to the traffic patterns in town” before the next meeting.
• A proclamation honoring community service was presented to The Rotary Club of Berkeley Heights which has replaced carpeting at the library, refurbished the conference room of the town hall, makes annual contributions to Project Graduation and the YMCA’s “Strong Kids” initiatives and also sponsors five Cub Scout packs, two Boy Scout troops, the Interact Club at Governor Livingston High School and the local Medic-Alert program. The club received the Governor’s Club of the Year Award 2011-12 at the annual conference.
• Gerry Harris received a proclamation noting that he was honored this year with the Rotary’s FS Matty Mathewson Rotarian of the Year Award, the highest award that can be given to a Rotarian in the district. It recognizes Rotarians who best exemplify the club’s “service above self” motto.
• Anna Damato, Allie Deegan and Timothy Sagendorf, who were all cadet members of the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad, were recognized for their service to the squad and community.
• Paving of Park Avenue will begin after July 4.