The Montclair Township Council had such a light schedule for its October 23 meeting – nine resolutions under a consent agenda, two first-reading ordinances, and two proclamations that no one was available to receive (one for a World War I armistice centennial remembrance and a congratulation for local Eagle Scout Mark Richards) – that the meeting looked to be over after half an hour. But not even this meeting was free of the one issue that unites Montclair residents in consternation – parking. Mayor Robert Jackson and the councilors may not have expected the parking issue to come up again, given the small number of constituents at the meeting.
But it did.
Resident Adam Reich, who missed the initial public comment section, asked to be recognized just as the council was about to adjourn. Allowed to proceed, he asked about a first-reading ordinance (which passed unanimously) setting parking fees and regulations, and he asked if transaction fees were something that was authorized to be collected prior to the council’s approval on an overnight permit. The mayor and Acting Township Manager Tim Stafford said the town was authorized to allow the company handling the transaction fees. Reich then explained that he has had a problem with the overnight parking restrictions and the need to buy a permit for outside his own house. He said he couldn’t afford to buy a permit for a friend who was staying overnight, likening the five-dollar-a-night fee to “a five-dollar tax” on each overnight stay that he could not afford. “It does add up,” he said. “It’s a cost.”
Reich said he wanted the cost evaluated in recognition of people who have a hard time paying an overnight fee, explaining that many people don’t have driveways big enough or any driveway at all to accommodate guests’ cars. He also faulted parking enforcement for failing to recognize that the parking ordinances allow people who are unable to hang permits on rear-view mirrors to display them on their dashboard sills; he said that his girlfriend was ticketed for using her dashboard sill to display a permit. Reich also said that when his street, Central Avenue, was repaved, the township allowed parking on adjacent streets, but a friend was ticketed for parking overnight elsewhere. He said the friend resolved the issue.
Mayor Jackson said overnight parking had been prohibited for years, and that previous councils had tried to establish overnight zones. He said the council hoped to pursue the issue further and apologized to Reich for his issues with the police. Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo said better communication between the township and the residents was obviously needed.
Also, three Gray Street residents took advantage of public comment to voice concerns about a pole placed on their street for a cell phone antenna. Resident Marlon Brown cited a 2016 resolution authorizing Verizon to use utility poles as rights of way for its lines in Montclair, saying that a utility company put a pole on Gray Street for a cell phone antenna. Brown said the placement of a cell phone antenna there was a detriment to the values of Gray Street’s 38 houses and a health hazard to its 41 children in residence, given the dangerous electromagnetics cell phone antennas emit. He asked that the council pass a resolution putting a hold on cell phone antennas, though he did concede that a 1966 federal law bans municipalities from prohibiting the location of such communications infrastructure and that a 2012 law gives companies great leeway as to what they are able to do once their equipment is placed on a pole. Brown expressed great concern with the choice to put such equipment on Gray Street. Brown also said the utility company plans to remove the pole to replace it with a taller pole that would be taller than the trees. (the antenna on the exiting pole has since been removed in anticipation of replacing the pole.)
Gray Street resident Amy Monaco had spoke with Township Attorney Ira Karasick about the issue, and Brown expressed the hope that residents can talk with Karasick at length. Karasick said he would look into it, adding that any utility that puts in such equipment has to consult with the township first, and he promised “an aggressive approach.”
Also, resident Alice Walling, whose backyard abuts Tuers Park, said a dead, decaying tree in the park fell and did costly damage to her garage, and she said she had brought the tree to the attention of the township – especially township arborist Steve Schuckman – in order to get it removed before it did fall. She said such trees need to be taken down before new ones are planted. Manager Stafford said he would look into the issue. There are other trees in the area that Walling finds concerning.
Among the resolutions passed were an execution of a lead clinic services agreement with Hackensack UMC/Mountainside to provide professional series for lead poisoning screenings, and refunds of overpayments on taxes and water charges for various properties.