Bloomfield Council Defers Vote on Butterfly Park…Again

council11_18_13The struggle over the fate of a planned butterfly park on Lion Gate Drive continued Monday evening, as Mayor McCarthy deferred a vote to move the project forward due to the absence of Mayor-Elect Venezia.

During a contentious discussion at last week’s conference meeting, McCarthy had vowed to put the awarding of the contract for the butterfly park on Monday’s agenda, saying, “There is no reason for it to be deferred.”

The 5.7 acre site was purchased by the Township in 2012, and the council had voted to put the proposed construction of the park out to bid in June of 2013.

On August 13, five sealed bids were received for the construction of the park, and Township Engineer Paul Lasek recommended that the Township award the contract to Let it Grow, Inc., a landscape and site construction company located in River Edge, New Jersey.

However, the award of the contract has been delayed several times at the request of Councilman Nick Joanow, who is opposed to the development of the adjacent property at 8 Lion Gate Drive, the site of the former Scientific Glass factory. That parcel of land is slated for a 104-townhome development, which has already received all necessary permits and approvals. Glen Ridge Country Club is reported to be interested in purchasing the land as an extension to their adjacent golf course. At a previous conference meeting, Councilman Carlos Bernard requested a meeting with the developer, Fleet Bloomfield, LLC. That meeting has not yet taken place.

At last week’s conference meeting, Michael Venezia stated that although the initial price quoted by then-developer Somerset Development was too high, there was room for negotiation and the Country Club is interested in partnering with the Township to acquire the land. Venezia said he wanted to put off the $600k commitment to build a butterfly park until after the meeting with the developer requested by Councilman Bernard takes place. Joanow also said he would favor building a soccer field over the butterfly park if the deal with GRCC fails to pan out.

When asked by Councilwoman Peggy Dunigan why he had reversed his support for the butterfly park, Joanow said priorities had changed, and he now felt it was more important to provide the children of Bloomfield with a place to play soccer. “Having 1200 children who participate in a sport have to lease a spot out of Bloomfield to play a sport…is unacceptable.”

At Monday’s meeting when the butterfly park came up on the agenda, McCarthy said that since Mayor-Elect Venezia was absent, he would defer the vote as a courtesy.

Also on the agenda at Monday’s meeting was a proposal to limit the number of council meetings to one conference meeting and one regular council meeting per month, rather than two of each type of meeting as the current schedule provides. Both former mayoral candidate Russell Mollica and Maria Probst spoke against the idea during the public comment period. At last week’s conference meeting, Mayor McCarthy had said that the council had tried a twice-monthly schedule previously, and it had been a failure.

In answer to questions by Mollica and Probst, McCarthy elaborated on the reasons for the failure. He said meetings had run to eleven or twelve o’clock at night, and the council had to order out for dinner just to get through their agendas. Council representatives Dunigan and Hamilton concurred. Hamilton said that the twice-monthly meetings resulted in a broadened range of issues being put on the agenda, which caused longer discussions.

The two ordinances to change the schedule failed on tied 3-3 votes, with Mayor McCarthy and council representatives Dunigan and Hamilton voting no.

The mayor and council passed four ordinances on second reading, including a bond ordinance providing for capital improvements, changes to sewer and water fees, and the rescission of the “crash tax” that charged out-of-town residents a response fee of $100 if they were involved in an accident in Bloomfield.

They also approved consent resolutions awarding a contract to upgrade catch basins and manhole covers, and supporting a grant application to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for funding to de-snag and de-silt portions of the Third River, which should mitigate flooding problems.

At the beginning of the meeting, the council presented a proclamation to the Bloomfield Technical High School of the Essex County Vocational and Technical School District, praising the school’s success and long-standing relationship with Bloomfield.

During public comment, Maria Probst questioned why an annual list of recommendations made by the Zoning Board had not been acted upon by the mayor and council. She said the items on the list continue to roll over year after year without any changes taking place.

Russell Mollica also spoke about the Scientific Glass site, pointing out that the planned townhouse development would bring in $1 million in ratables to the town. He supported the butterfly park, pointing out that the township needs green space, and questioned the practicality of a soccer field in that location, citing traffic concerns.

The next meeting will be a conference meeting to be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 25, 2013, in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement Building.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. changes to sewer and water fees? wow, nice of baristanet to slip that in like a typical town council meeting. I would bet they are NOT going down. anybody know the details?

  2. Permit fees for sanitary sewer connections will be $75 per connection for single and two-family homes. Same with water connections – $75 per connection. Larger residences and non-residential buildings will be charged at $2 per gallon per day. There is no change in fee for one and two-family houses compared to the current code. The change will affect 3-family and larger residential buildings and non-residential buildings only; the fee goes from $0.25 per gallon per day to $2 per gpd. However, the maximum fee of $2,500 for those buildings remains the same. Hope that helps.

  3. Russell Mollica also spoke about the Scientific Glass site, pointing out that the planned townhouse development would bring in $1 million in ratables to the town. He supported the butterfly park, pointing out that the township needs green space, and questioned the practicality of a soccer field in that location, citing traffic concerns.

    So in one breath Russ supports building townhouses on one of the last remaining pieces of open space in Bloomfield, and in the very next breath he talks about the need for open space, referencing the butterfly park – which is right next to the Scientific Glass site that so many want to save as open space.

    His reasoning seems logically inconsistent.

  4. “In answer to questions by Mollica and Probst, McCarthy elaborated on the reasons for the failure. He said meetings had run to eleven or twelve o’clock at night, and the council had to order out for dinner just to get through their agendas. Council representatives Dunigan and Hamilton concurred. Hamilton said that the twice-monthly meetings resulted in a broadened range of issues being put on the agenda, which caused longer discussions”

    SORRY MIMI but NO ONE ANSWERED PROBST. They disrespected her by remaining silent and there were no answers for her. Mollica re-asked some of her questions and was given a few answers (I wasn’t there and watched the video and spoke to some of the participants).

    It is NEWS when the ENTIRE TOWN COUNCIL refuses to answer simple questions about when they want to reduce the number of meetings (and thus public comment) to two meetings per month.

    MIMI – WERE YOU THERE or are you “reporting” after watching the video – if the latter your story should indicate that that is the fact.

    and PORKROLL – YES we need open space but not at the cost of $8.5+million and now to find out that the site will also bring in $1million PER YEAR in RATEABLES. This is not the LAST SITE in Bloomfield for a soccer field . Councilman Joanow needs to move on and stop talking about taking the Scientific Glass site via eminent domain or BONDING FOR IT (OMG he wants to take out a loan that the TAXPAYERS will pay YEAR after YEAR).

  5. Pat, I attended the meeting in person. I did refer back to last week’s conference meeting based on the video, which I linked. My wording was to show that both Maria and Russ asked the questions and that afterwards the Mayor did address one of the questions that was brought up. It is not news when the mayor and council don’t answer someone specifically – they do it all the time – and the fact the mayor did eventually respond after the second person asked the question is what I reported. The measure did not pass, so it was not the main purpose of the article, and the facts are that the Mayor did explain why the two-meeting schedule failed in the past. No doubt this will come up again at the next conference meeting when Michael Venezia returns and more questions can be posed at that time.

  6. “It is not news when the mayor and council don’t answer someone specifically – they do it all the time ”

    And since the Mayor and Town Council diss residents who come to ask questions it’s NOT NEWS. Is it ACCEPTABLE? Sounds like it is.

    Oh – still no ELEC reports from mayor-elect Michael Venezia. Guess that’s not news either

Comments are closed.