The Montclair Township Council tackled an array of issues in a two-hour conference meeting on December 15, the last meeting of 2015. Although it was not on the agenda, the council ended up passing a resolution establishing a public/private partnership to provide services to Montclair’s residents aged 65 and over.
Funding For Senior resource & Activity Center
Ann Lippel, chair of the Senior Citizens Advisory Committee (SCAC), addressed Mayor Robert Jackson and the council, presented her committee’s request to have start-up funding for a senior resource and activity center, to be located at the Salvation Army building on Trinity Place, which would serve as a hub for satellite locations also providing services. Lippel said that while the SCAC remains supportive of a comprehensive senior center in a central location, a hub-and-spoke network would be a positive start toward that goal.
Lippel urged the township to establish a partnership between the nonprofit Aging In Montclair (AIM) group and the township with seed money totaling $35,000 to allow the creation of such a hub-and-spoke system, allocate administrative support for the first year, and provide a funding mechanism for the funding of senior programming going forward.
Deputy Mayor Robert Russo, the only member of the 2012-16 council over 65, said that no more studies on the matter were needed and urged immediate action. Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville concurred, and she commended the SCAC for doing an outstanding job with it. Township Attorney Ira Karasick said that council was authorized to give an annual voluntary contribution to a nonprofit for the creation of senior services, but he said it would complicate matters if such a resolution delved into the particulars of establishing a liaison between the township and the nonprofit. The resolution, so written as to allow a $35,000 contribution to AIM for 2016, was passed unanimously.
While the senior issue was harmoniously settled, parking once again came back as a problem. This time it came in the form of a petition from Tuxedo Road residents requesting new parking restrictions. Resident Luis Carrillo said the petition requested a four-hour parking limit from Monday to Friday on Tuxedo Road between Grove Street and Tremont Place and on Tremont Place between Tuxedo and Ardsley Roads to decrease congestion caused by commuter parking and to discourage burglars from parking for unlimited time to monitor people and then breaking into their houses. Sunday parking on Tuxedo Road to accommodate services at Grace Presbyterian Church, which stands at the corner of Grove Street and Tuxedo Road.
The burglary issue took on a personal tone when resident Katie Braunstein said that she regularly leaves her house between approximately 3:00 and 3:30 P.M., and she said that her house had been burglarized in that very time frame, leading her to conclude that the assailant must have been observing her comings and goings before striking. She found it unsettling that someone would be able to monitor her like that by parking for unlimited time near her house.
Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon, who sits on the Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee, sympathized with Carrillo and Braunstein, but he expressed opposition to changing any more parking laws while a study aimed at maximizing parking in Montclair was still underway, calling further regulations a “Band-Aid” on the problem. Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller agreed that a comprehensive solution was needed to take care of parking issues and address the complaints of people who found parking on public streets to be overregulated.
Karasick drafted a first-reading ordinance on the spot regulating traffic per the residents’ requests, with the four-hour limit in effect on the southern side of Tuxedo Road between 8:00 A.M. at 6:00 P.M., between Grove Street and Tremont Place, with the same restrictions on both sides of Tremont Place between Tuxedo and Ardsley Roads. Carrillo wanted the space along Grace Presbyterian Church exempted, but Karasick needed the dimensions of the exempted space; Carrillo promised to get him the dimensions, which could be worked into an amended version of the ordinance later, and he also conferred with Township Engineer Kim Craft at the meeting. Though Councilor Spiller argued for a comprehensive solution for all parking in town, he voted for the resolution, but Councilor McMahon voted against it based on his earlier opposition. It passed 5-1; First Ward Councilor William Hurlock recused himself because his wife is an employee of the church.
Ash Tree Infestation
Beetles are set to invade Montclair in the spring, Steve Schuckman announced, but, unfortunately, he didn’t mean a Volkswagen car show. Schuckman, the township arborist, warned that the emerald ash borer, a tiny invasive-species beetle from Asia, has made its way to New Jersey and is set to devastate the many ash trees in Montclair. The bugs are so small, he said, they are practically invisible, but hundreds of them can infest and kill a tree, which shows symptoms (usually the top dying back) after it’s too late. Montclair planted a lot of them as shade trees; Carolin Road, Lincoln Street, North Fullerton Avenue, and North Mountain Avenue have 265 ash trees between them alone.
Schuckman said the the best recourse was to take an inventory this coming winter of all of the ash trees – 2,500 to 4,000 of them street trees – harvest compromised and poorly pruned ash and replace them the same year. Ash trees in better condition could be saved with an injection of a biological serum that would protect it for two years. A ten-inch-thick tree would cost roughly $200 to treat. Mayor Jackson moved to have Schuckman conduct an inventory and develop a plan with Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford for how to combat the infestation.
The council approved on second reading the ordinance establishing the financial agreement between the township and the developers of the MC Hotel. It also approved a resolution submitting grant applications for various organizations, the result of the December 8 testimony on said applications. It was amended at the last minute by Planning Director Janice Talley for a $155,550 grant improvements on Orange Road at a cost of $143825 grant for improvements on Willowdale Avenue. Talley had neglected to include them in the original resolution. The full list of the non-improvement grants is in the original resolution, available here.