Bloomfield Council Adopts 2017 Budget, Hires Planning Director

BY  |  Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 7:29am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Bloomfield Council voted 6-0 to adopt the 2017 Municipal Budget at Monday evening’s council meeting.

The resolution adopting the $80m budget was passed unanimously by the council members present. Prior to the vote, the floor was opened for a public hearing. No members of the audience spoke. Councilman Carlos Bernard was absent.

Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano read into the record the first paragraph of Section 2 of the adopting resolution, which stated that the budget includes $58,845,456.08 for municipal purposes, $311,717.68 in the open space, recreation, farmland and historic preservation trust fund levy, and $1,447,929.22 for the minimum library levy.

The mayor and council also passed a resolution appointing Bonnie Flynn to the new position of Planning Director for the Township. According to her profile on the American Planning Association website, Flynn received her Masters of City and Regional Planning (MCRP) from the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and is a member of the New Jersey Association of Planning & Zoning Administrators, the Affordable Housing Professionals of New Jersey and the NJ Association of Floodplain Management. She is a Professional Planner and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Her previous position was Director of Community Development in Stafford Township, NJ, where she had broad responsibilities pertaining to planning and zoning, CDBG grants, affordable housing, and more. Flynn will officially begin her new position on May 15, 2017 at a salary of $96k.

During the public comment period, Susan Hebert of Greener Bloomfield thanked the mayor and council for supporting their organization and working with the group to renew the township’s bronze certification with Sustainable Jersey. She also provided an update on the recent Brookside Park Cleanup/flower planting sponsored by Greener Bloomfield. She thanked the High School Key Club, the Scouts, Hot Bagels Abroad and O’Boyle/Brookside Garden Center for their support.

Heather Nolan also thanked the council for its continued support of Greener Bloomfield, and said they hoped to hear soon about a grant they had partnered with the town to submit, which would help increase composting in the town and fund a feasibility study.

Michele Mickle, accompanied by her two young grandchildren, spoke about her son, Quenzelle Mickle, who was murdered two years ago, and urged the town not to forget about his unsolved homicide. “Where there is no justice there is no peace,” she said. She asked that anyone who has any information to call 1-877-847-7432 and ask for Jessica Mazzola.

Appointments

  • Municipal Judge Vincent A. Pirone was reappointed to his position.
  • Thomas Heaney and Mike Salinas were appointed to the Bloomfield Parking Authority.
  • Flint Kinkade was appointed as an alternate to the Environmental Commission.
  • Damaris Hicks was sworn in as a member of the Rent Leveling Board.

Damaris Hicks is sworn in.

Continue Reading

Montclair Affordable Housing Forum Offers Help to Residents

BY  |  Monday, Apr 17, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (8)

Steven Cooper, Renee Baskerville, Deirdre Malloy and William Scott (L – R).

Al Pelham of the Montclair Branch of the NAACP and Chris Napierala of the Montclair Justice Coalition hosted a Community Forum on Affordable Housing for local residents on April 11 at the Wally Choice Community Center in Glenfield Park.

The forum was sponsored by the Justice Coalition and featured a four-person panel comprising 4th Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville, MD; Steven Cooper, Senior Mortgage Banker at Alterra Home Loans in Jersey City; Deirdre Malloy, Property Compliance Manager at HomeCorp; and William Scott, Chair of the Montclair NAACP Housing Committee and Co-Chair of the Montclair Housing Commission.

Councilwoman Baskerville began her comments by discussing the Mt. Laurel decision regarding affordable housing, and saying that Montclair had gone “above and beyond” in their efforts to provide affordable housing. However, she pointed out that with new housing coming into Montclair with rents from $2000-$4000, there is concern about how this will affect people who have historically lived in the township’s low and moderate-income neighborhoods.

She also discussed gentrification, saying that it’s “not necessarily an all-bad thing,” as it sometimes serves a need for economic stimulus.  “Some people feel some types of gentrification can be a positive thing. But people who’ve been in Montclair for decades, and whose families have shaped the township and given their all for generations, they may not be able to afford to live in their neighborhoods.” She questioned whether this trend would “push black and brown people out of their community.” Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Unveils $80m Budget for 2017

BY  |  Monday, Apr 03, 2017 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Bloomfield council unanimously approved a resolution introducing the 2017 budget at their March 27th council meeting.

Prior to the vote, Township Administrator Matt Watkins described the budget as “financially flat” at approximately $80 million. He said the amount was just 0.25% higher than the previous year, resulting in a tax increase of less than 0.5%. Watkins stated that operating expenses will be down -6%. He said that the utility budget included funds for improvements being made to the water system, including water looping, cleaning lines, and exercising hydrants and gate valves in order to ensure good water quality.

Mayor Venezia added that the tax increase would translate into an annual tax increase of just $15.96 for the average homeowner, just under the increase for the previous year. The public hearing and adoption of the budget will take place on April 24, 2017.

Venezia also said there will be a PowerPoint presentation of the budget at the upcoming April 3rd conference meeting, which will be broadcast on Channel 35. In a Facebook post the following day, the mayor reminded residents that the Municipal budget accounts for 38% of residents’ tax bill (County and Board of Education taxes make up the remainder).

The meeting began with the appointment of Firefighter Duncan Arlett, who was sworn in by Mayor Venezia.

Firefighter Duncan Arlett is sworn in.

The mayor and council also issued a proclamation honoring Benjamin Contella for over 40 years of volunteer service in Bloomfield, including 28 years on the Bloomfield Recreation Board of Commissioners. He was presented with a key to the Municipal Park System.

The governing body also issued three other proclamations, declaring the month of April as Autism Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, and the week of April 9-15, 2017 as National Library Week.

Alicia DeLia was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission, and Jody Polidoro to the Board of Health. Damaris Hicks and Suzanne Rogacki were appointed to the Rent Leveling Board.

Alicia DeLia is sworn in to the Civil Rights Commission.

The governing body passed a number of parking and traffic ordinances on first reading.

The council also passed an ordinance on meeting decorum sponsored by Councilwoman Wartyna Davis, which she said would ensure that both the members of the council and the public conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. The rules prohibit exceeding the 5-minute limit for public comment, slanderous or rude remarks, personal attacks, profanity, electioneering for candidates, or generally interfering with “orderly and dignified conduct” of the meeting.

The council also passed on first reading a revision to the Civil Rights Commission ordinance, redefining the membership to nine people in total, with seven voting citizens and two non-voting liaisons, one from the council and one from the Police Department.

Ordinances passed on second reading included the adoption of titles and salary ranges for various positions and a number of parking/traffic regulations.

Montclair Planning Board Rejects Revised Plan for Lorraine Ave., Approves Madison Subdivision

BY  |  Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 8:04am  |  COMMENTS (2)

Planner Peter Steck testifies at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting.

The Montclair Planning Board rejected a revised plan for the redevelopment of the former Warner Communications property on Lorraine Avenue on Monday evening.

A scaled-back development plan for the property had been approved in April of 2016 after an earlier application submitted by developer Michael Pavel met opposition due to the size of the building.

However, in December, Pavel submitted an amended application for the site, which proposed enlarging the building by adding over 3000 square feet to the second floor space, while parking spaces would remain unchanged.

After opposition from the public and members of the Historic Preservation Commission, the application was adjourned to allow a proper review by the HPC prior to the next hearing on February 6, 2017.

A revised version of the application met additional resistance from the Board and the residents at the February meeting, and the hearing was ultimately continued to the March 13 meeting. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Approves Township Designation as “Welcoming City”

BY  |  Wednesday, Mar 01, 2017 6:35pm

Municipal Clerk Louise Palagano reads resolution aloud.

The Bloomfield mayor and council unanimously passed a resolution to designate the township as a “Welcoming City” at their regular meeting on Monday evening, receiving a standing ovation from the attendees.

The resolution, entitled “Fair and Welcoming Bloomfield Resolution,” affirms that the Township “values its ethnic, racial, linguistic, and socio-economic diversity,” citing diversity as a source of Bloomfield’s strength, and stating that Bloomfield residents “…are concerned about how the new presidential administration will impact their lives and families, whether they will be forced to leave this country, and whether rights and protections afforded to them will suddenly be taken away.”

It goes on to state the need for cooperation between the immigrant community and the police force to ensure the health and safety of residents. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Approves BCA Budget, Considers Designation as “Welcoming City”

BY  |  Friday, Feb 10, 2017 9:00am

The Bloomfield council approved a $590k 2017 budget for the Bloomfield Center Alliance at Monday night’s council meeting.

Ollyn Lettman, Director of the BCA, presented the organization’s plans for 2017. He stated the emphasis in the coming year would be on marketing and advertising the businesses in Bloomfield Center, as well as continuing to hold events to promote the area. Lettman cited last year’s successful block party as an event that they would repeat in 2017. He also said the BCA plans to work with store owners to utilize empty storefronts for temporary “pop-up” shops or galleries in order to entice more people to come to the Center.

Lettman said the BCA plans to initiate a Gateway to Bloomfield project at Parkway Exit 148. He said he was thankful for the help of the township, which provided $70k to pursue this project, allowing them to hire a consultant to design the plan.

The BCA is a non-profit organization that manages and promotes the Bloomfield Center business district. The majority of the BCA’s budget comes from a tax assessment on businesses in the Special Improvement District in Bloomfield Center. Continue Reading

Montclair Planning Board Approves Renovations to Greenworks on Grove Building

BY  |  Thursday, Jan 26, 2017 9:00am

On Monday evening, the Montclair Planning Board approved an application to renovate the Greenworks on Grove building at 100 Grove Street to allow a dental practice to move into vacant office space.

Alan Trembulak, the attorney representing the applicant for the application, provided an overview of the project.

He explained his client was looking for site plan approval to remodel the interior of a one-story building that had been previously approved by the Planning Board in 2007. He stated the client was not proposing to change the exterior of the building, but to modify the interior to accommodate a dental practice that will be moving into the building. He said they also would need approval of a variance for the number of on-site parking spaces, given that medical practices have a higher on-site parking requirement of 20 spaces vs. the parking lot’s available 15 spaces, as well as the change in the use of the site. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Council Discusses “Predatory Booting” of Vehicles, Makes Appointments

BY  |  Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017 3:30pm

Councilman Nick Joanow brought up the issue of “predatory bootings” taking place at private parking lots at Monday’s brief conference meeting.

Photo credit: Maria Probst

Photo credit: Maria Probst

Joanow explained that “booting” a car meant attaching a mechanical device to a vehicle that immobilizes it. He said a lot of residents had told him that they had been booted when parking in private lots and had had to pay $100 or $200 (depending on location) in cash in order to get the device removed. While emphasizing that the residents had parked illegally and should not have done so, he said, “I’m offended by a company that would prey on our own residents. It’s like killing a flea with a sledgehammer.”

He reiterated to residents, “Do not park in private lots; they will do what the sign says they will do…They are aggressively enforcing.” Joanow went on to say, “My charge to the Administrator is to look at the county level. There is ‘predatory towing.’ Let’s not gouge the residents.” He explained that the agencies booting residents’ vehicles are “waiting for you – that’s the predatory part.” He asked the administration to see what leverage the town may have to protect the residents. Joanow mentioned that the McDonald’s on Broad Street is one of the locations where residents are being booted for parking illegally.

The council voted to create a cap bank to give the administration flexibility for future appropriations as needed. Township Administrator Watkins explained that this does not raise taxes, but simply protects money that the township has already saved. According to the NJ Department of Community Affairs, a municipality may bank (for up to two years) the difference between its final appropriation subject to the budget cap, and 3.5%.

Finance Director Robert Renna announced the township had held a successful sale of bonds totaling $24.4 million at a net interest rate of 1.15%.

The mayor and council also voted to approve members to numerous boards and commissions. Leo Sceurman and Jessica Alfreds were promoted from alternate to regular members of the Zoning Board, and new member Greg Moormann was appointed as an alternate. Thess Prince and Trevor Munson were reappointed as alternates. On the Planning Board, Greg Babula was reappointed and Zeke Harvey appointed as an alternate. Denise Seabay was reappointed to the Board of Health, and Nicole Williams was reappointed to the Parking Authority.

Other Business

The council also passed a number of other action items awarding contracts for various township functions, including Township Attorney. They also voted to reject and rebid for the purchase of a truck cab with chassis.

Councilor Wartyna Davis reported on the upcoming Martin Luther King Day events. Saturday, January 14, will be the MLK Day of Service, to be held at Berkeley School. Check-in time for participants is 8 a.m. Monday, January 16, will be the MLK Day Celebration, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the New Light Baptist Church.Dr. Antoinette Ellis-Williams will be the key speaker. In addition, Davis said, they will be presenting service awards.

The next meeting will be a regular meeting, to be held on Monday, January 23, 2017, in the council chambers at 7 p.m.

Bloomfield Council Passes Lion Gate Bond Ordinance – Again

BY  |  Wednesday, Dec 14, 2016 9:00am

council12_12_16The Bloomfield mayor and council passed an ordinance Monday evening appropriating $10.5 million, including $9.975m in bonds, to fund the purchase of the former Scientific Glass site on Lion Gate Drive.

The township had previously passed the bond ordinance in August of 2014, allowing the town to move forward with the purchase of the land in order to preserve it as open space. The purchase was completed in February of 2015. The site had originally been owned by a developer who intended to build 104 town houses on the property.

Shortly after the 2014 vote, four Bloomfield residents (former Mayor Raymond McCarthy, former mayoral candidate Russell Mollica, James Wollner and Chris Stanziale) filed a lawsuit alleging that Councilman Nick Joanow, whose property borders the Scientific Glass site, had a conflict of interest by participating in the vote on the bond ordinance. Continue Reading

Bloomfield Kicks off Holiday Season with Tree Lighting and Food Drive

BY  |  Thursday, Dec 08, 2016 6:52am

treelightingBloomfield launched the holiday season on Monday evening with the annual tree lighting ceremony, which drew a large crowd.

The festivities were kicked off by Recreation Director Mike Sceurman. After brief remarks by Mayor Venezia, Councilor Wartyna Davis spoke about the upcoming Martin Luther King Day of Service. She said that the day of service has morphed into a month-long season of giving, and announced that they are holding a town-wide Food Drive and Baby Shower. She asked that people donate nonperishable goods to the Food Drive, and items such as disposable diapers, baby wipes, lotions and other items for the Baby Shower. She stated there would be drop-off locations at various locations around town, including the Library, Civic Center, police and fire stations, and Town Hall.

Following the speakers, Boy and Girl Scout troops sang “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” followed by seasonal carols sung by the Bloomfield High School Choir. and then the tree lighting. The two large evergreens on each side of the Town Hall were lit simultaneously, after a countdown from 20. That dramatic moment was followed by a visit from Santa, who arrived on the Police Mobile Command Unit with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Santa then met with all the children who wanted to tell him what they wanted for Christmas (and of course, assure him they had been good all year!).

The tree-lighting ceremony was followed by a brief Council Conference meeting in the mayor’s conference room. Continue Reading

Featured Comment

Stopped by on opening day to take out a dozen empanadas. Very welcoming space, especially with the storefront glass open on a warm spring day and sidewalk tables available; and, the staff were warm and engaged. The empanadas are soft and pastry-like, rather than the harder crisper type. They got a thumbs up from the Morales family, who loves them a good empanada!

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