The Bloomfield Council passed an ordinance on Monday night designating the remaining segments of the Morris Canal, which ran through the township, as a Greenway, and establishing a Morris Canal Greenway Committee in order to acknowledge the historical importance of the Canal in Bloomfield.
The ordinance, which was introduced by Councilman Carlos Pomares and passed unanimously on second reading, highlights the benefits of establishing the Greenway, including the preservation of open space and the historic integrity of the areas of the Canal route that remain in the Township.
It also mentions that the Morris Canal is a nationally recognized cultural resource on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, and that the historic Collins House, which is also eligible for the National and State Registers of Historic places, is a contributing element to the Morris Canal Historic Site. The house, located next to Kinder Tower, overlooks JFK Drive, which once was Inclined Plane 11 East of the Canal. In addition to the Collins House property, other sections of the Greenway will include areas along Oak Tree Lane and Lindberg Boulevard.
At the beginning of the meeting, Township Clerk Louise Palagano read aloud a letter received from U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who wrote in support of the creation of the Greenway.
The ordinance also establishes a Greenway Committee, which will consist of one member of the Township Council, the DPW Director, three residents of the Township, to be appointed by the Council, and two non-voting members representing organizations actively involved in the preservation of the Morris Canal to act as advisers. The Greenway Committee will serve in an advisory capacity to the Mayor and Council to matters pertaining to the Greenway and the Collins House.
Pomares also introduced an amendment to the Township’s Streets and Sidewalks ordinance that passed on first reading, protecting the historic bluestone slate sidewalks that still exist in the Township.
The ordinance requires that homeowners apply for a permit from the Township before doing any work affecting bluestone sidewalks. If the homeowner receives permission to remove the bluestone, the owner must transfer the bluestone to a location designated by the Township Engineer. The Township will then stockpile the materials for use in replacing bluestone sidewalks in the Historic District. If homeowners in the Historic District need to replace existing bluestone, it must be replaced in kind. The Township Engineer will consult the Historic District Review Board in these cases before issuing a permit. The ordinance must pass on second reading at the next regular council meeting before becoming law.
Bond Ordinance to Purchase Heart Breakers Property
A bond ordinance passed on first reading, authorizing the issuance of bonds or notes for the Township to finance part of the cost of purchasing property at 609-611 Bloomfield Avenue, better known as the Heart Breakers Bar, in the Center Redevelopment Area. The bar has been a source of problems in the area.
The ordinance called for the issuance of bonds or notes of $560,000. The bond ordinance was originally intended to finance the purchase of both the property and the liquor license from the current owner. However, attorney Joe Baumann, who has been handling the negotiations, spoke briefly at Monday’s meeting, explaining the owner will sell the liquor license separately. The Township will therefore only be acquiring the property itself, reducing the amount needed by about $100,000. Since the negotiations had not yet been completely finalized, a resolution authorizing the council to go ahead with the sale that was also on the agenda was deferred until the next regular meeting.
The council also passed an ordinance on first reading, amending the redevelopment plan for the Hartz Mountain site that spans the corner of Watsessing and Bloomfield Avenues in the 3rd Ward. The ordinance removes the residential minimum building height variation requirement and prohibits “dollar stores” and similar establishments in the development. Once the ordinance passes on second reading it will be referred to the Planning Board for comment and recommendations. During the public comment period, Maria Probst and Susana Sotillo spoke urging the council to provide more green space as part of the plan, since the 3rd Ward is in need of open space and recreational facilities.
The council held a public hearing on the 2014 budget, which was introduced at the council meeting held on April 7, 2014. There were no comments from the public and the 2014 budget and an amendment were adopted unanimously by the Mayor and Council.
Proclamations and Promotions
At the beginning of the meeting, the Mayor and Council issued proclamations declaring the week of May 5th, 2014 as Youth Week – Government Day 2014. Students from Bloomfield High School held a mock council meeting from 6:30 to 7:00 prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting.The Department of Public Works was also honored with a Proclamation declaring May 18-24, 2014 as National Public Works Week. Director Anthony Nesto and his crew accepted congratulations from the Mayor and Council.
Two police officers were promoted on Monday evening: Vincent A. Kerney to the rank of Lieutenant, and Michael Horton to Sergeant.
Mayor Michael Venezia swore in his brother, Lou Venezia, who was promoted to Deputy Chief of the Fire Department. Venezia abstained during the vote on the resolution approving the promotion.
Councilman Carlos Bernard swore in Christopher Colon as Fire Captain. Captain Colon is the first Hispanic to serve as Captain in the Bloomfield Fire Department.
Lenore Imhof was sworn in as a new member of the Library Board.
The council passed a number of consent resolutions, including the purchase of one new 4 by 4 utility truck, and one authorizing the execution of a maintenance agreement between the Township of Bloomfield and the County of Essex for the replacement of the Berkeley Avenue Bridge.
During the Public Comment period, resident Gary Skinner spoke strongly in support of the in-house Engineering Department, urging the council not to outsource their work to a consultant. Proposals to take over management of the Engineering function have been received from two engineering firms in response to an RFP put out by the township.
The next meeting will be a conference meeting to be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 19, 2014 in the 2nd floor conference room in the Law Enforcement Building.