Tonight's Township Committee meeting was a bit more packed than usual, as Town Hall was filled with proud family, friends and supporters there to witness two events. (There were also an inordinate number of police cars in the parking lot.)
The first happy event was Mayor Vic DeLuca proclaiming June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month in Maplewood -- -- to great applause from the audience.
CJ Prince, co-founder of SOMA Pride, thanked the Mayor and reminded audience members about this weekend's upcoming , which will take place on Saturday, June 9 from 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. in Memorial Park. "I can't think of any better place to have this event," said Prince, "other than in South Orange." (Patch will have more information about the Festival in an upcoming article).
The second exciting occasion was the promotion of three of Maplewood's finest: Lt. John M. Perna was appointed Captain; Sgt. Dawn M. Williams was appointed Lieutenant; and Patrolman Vincent R. DeCicco was appointed Sargeant. Their families stood with them as Township Clerk Elizabeth Fritzen administered the oath of office to each officer.
In other business, the committee voted to amend an ordinance to establish a $25 surcharge per dwelling unit to account for pending legal fees resulting from the lawsuit "NJDEP vs. Occidental Chemical." In light of a meeting of the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties scheduled for June 21, the committee decided to hold a second reading and final passage of the ordinance at the July 3 TC meeting.
The township also passed a motion to order a townwide reassessment of residential properties sometime in 2013. Appraisal Systems Inc., the same company that conducted the , will be retained and will be paid $60,000 by the town.
A reassessment differs from a revaluation in that door-to-door inspections of individual properties are not conducted. As Township Attorney Roger Desiderio explained and Mayor DeLuca clarified, the reason for the town to conduct a reassessment is to ensure that property values are reviewed more frequently in between full-scale revaluations. This would in theory reduce the number of tax appeals brought against the township and help to ensure that there are fewer large fluctuations during the next revaluation. Desiderio said he believed the cost of the reassessment would save the town money in the long run.
In recreation news: the committee passed an ordinance to restructure the Recreation Advisory Committee, which will allow the committee to choose a chair from among its members, and will increase the membership from seven to nine members. They passed an ordinance to establish the Maplewood Green Team as a permanent advisory committee. Also, committee member Jerry Ryan moved to appoint a list of seven names for the ad hoc committee of the Maplewood Bikeway Plan.
On the budget front, the committee unanimously passed the 2012 budgets for the Maplewood Village Alliance SID and the Springfield Avenue Partnership SID.
During the public comment period, John Meade, owner of St. James Gate Publick House in the Village, expressed frustration that his landlord will not support his bid to have a limited number of tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant for outdoor dining. Meade said his landlord has asked for $3,000 a month to allow the initiative, which Meade said his business would not be able to recoup in additional revenue from the extra seating. Mayor DeLuca said the Township Committee does not want to create a new ordinance allowing the additional seating without "buy-in" from the landlord. The discussion ended at an impasse.
Patch will further report on these and other items discussed in additional articles to come.