The Montclair Township Council began its last meeting of 2017 on December 19 with an announcement of the winner and two runners-up (who were given “honorable mention”) of the poster contest for Montclair’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) and the presentation of the top three entries and of the new municipal flag. Mayor Robert Jackson presided over the honors.
The winner was Dylan Baddeley of Glenfield Middle School, whose poster was meant to represent the trees and the colors of its leaves were meant to symbolize the different seasons. Third-place winner Sofia Abrahumson, of the Renaissance School, also designed a tree-based poster, its green leaves symbolizing Montclair’s natural beauty and the people of different skin colors huddled underneath its leaves representing the diversity of the town. Second place winner Odalys Jimenez, like Dylan Baddeley a Glenfield student, designed a decorative-script poster that meant to symbolize the local jazz community.
All three students were awarded ribbons, and Interim Schools Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said she could not be prouder of the three winners and of all of the entrants whose work has decorated the municipal chambers for the past several weeks. The top three winners had the added pleasure of unveiling the township’s new flag, which adds color to the familiar township seal, a version of which adorns the wall behind the dais in the chambers.
The mayor and the councilors passed numerous ordinances and resolutions, including second-reading salary ordinances for public employees and resolutions re-appointing Joseph Angelo as Assistant Township Attorney and as municipal prosecutor. A first-reading ordinance setting new guidelines for developing property near the under-construction MC Hotel was also passed, with a second reading slated for the new year. But a resolution adopting guidelines for community gardens was tabled, despite rewording of the ordinance after it had first been reviewed. First Ward Councilor William Hurlock told Fourth Ward Councilor Renée Baskerville he had concerns with language referring to community gardens and newly constructed dwellings. The resolution seeks to “encourage [or require] all new affordable housing units to contain designated yard or other shared space for residents to garden” and “encourage [or require] all or some new construction, such as multifamily residential, commercial, institutional or public construction to incorporate green roofs and/or edible landscaping, and encourage the use of existing roof space for community gardening.”
Councilor Hurlock did not elaborate on what his concerns were. Councilor-at-Large Rich McMahon said he no problems with community gardens per se, but he was troubled by the suggestion of penalties for those who changed the design or the foliage of the gardens. He found the definition of a change of design and foliage unclear, and he and Councilor Hurlock were confused as to who would enforce penalties and how punitive they would be. Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller was pleased with changes emphasizing public use of the community gardens, but Councilors Hurlock and McMahon wanted their concerns addressed. A proposal to vote on the language that everyone on the council was comfortable with was rejected in favor of what Councilor Spiller called a holistic approach – that is, the council decided to consider all of the resolution at once rather than piecemeal. The resolution is likely to be discussed at the next conference meeting, and Councilor Hurlock told Dr. Baskerville he would be happy to directly send her an e-mail detailing his concerns, which she could relay to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.
In public comment, resident Sandy Sorkin said that, with all of the construction in town causing traffic jams, he was aware that Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) required to have one policeman at a work site to assure the safety of PSE&G workers. Sorkin said the town should require a second officer to direct traffic at such work sites to make the traffic flow more easily. Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford explained that PSE&G will consult the police and, in safe stations, employ people at either end of the traffic with “SLOW” or “STOP” signs to over the traffic so long as the police allow that. If it is not a safe situation, the police already enforce traffic flow. Sorkin said he’d never seen men with signs, and he said it would be more efficient to have a policeman direct traffic through construction zones rather than rely on the timing of nearby traffic signals, and Stafford said he could make a suggestion of Sorkin’s idea to PSE&G.
Also, Kenneth Motter of Denton, Maryland, who co-owns Powerhouse tattoo parlor on Bloomfield Avenue, said he was skeptical of the “open door policy” toward allowing more tattoo parlors in town that the Planning Board had discussed at its meeting the previous night. Motter was afraid that disreputable tattoo artists could set up shop in Montclair under such a policy, and he explained that they might not perform tattoo work in safe, clean and sterile environment. He said he would be agreeable to it if the township approved more tattoo parlors with the expectation of cleanliness and public safety standards should be “the top priority,” and that such places should conform to the character of whatever neighborhoods or districts they are established in. He suggested that tattoo parlor proprietors should have a proven 10-year record of experience and he cautioned them against approving so many parlors that they would be a burden on parking and the health department. Montclair, according to the statistics of the body-art business, would be best suited by no more than three tattoo parlors; it already has two.
Mayor Jackson later reported the township debt was decreased by $52 million, to $171 million, and he also congratulated developer Steven Plofker (who was not present) for the grand opening of the George Inn on December 16. The mayor, noting that it was Montclair’s first new hotel in years, made a less-than-subtle reference to the slow pace of the MC Hotel’s construction.