Hillsdale Grapples with Vacant Property, Environmental Preservation, and Future Wireless Technology

In the most recent Hillsdale Borough Council meeting, local representatives contended with multifaceted issues ranging from a long-vacant property owned by the United Way to updates to the town’s Environmental Resource Inventory (ERI) and the futuristic implications of ‘smart poles’ and small wireless facilities.

A significant concern raised by residents involved the prolonged vacancy of a property on Central Avenue purchased by United Way, which has remained unutilized for over two years. Council members, in response to inquiries from the public, admitted to grappling with their role in such scenarios, as the follow-up process to ensure the progress of such projects often falls outside their jurisdiction. Despite acknowledging their discomfort, Mayor Ruka agreed to reach out to United Way for clarity on the situation.

Similarly contentious was the borough’s discussion around local zoning regulations. The Council tackled issues surrounding building permits’ timeframes. They voiced a collective agreement on the need for post-construction compliance checks to ensure the adherence of projects to zoning allowances.

On a more forward-looking note, the Council pondered the impending future of wireless technology. Addressing the topic of ‘smart poles’ – essentially, sleekly designed Wi-Fi poles – the council highlighted the need for an ordinance to control the appearance and placement of these wireless facilities, prompted by concerns over unrestricted deployments by telecom giants like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The Mayor emphasized the proactive role of the vendor, Municide, and the advantage for Hillsdale in maintaining aesthetic and functional control over these developments.

The environmental stewardship aspect of the meeting was highlighted by an in-depth discussion of the ERI, a crucial planning tool for Hillsdale’s ecological preservation. The ERI, presented by Environmental Commission member Fred Rubell, saw updates that included information about newly spotted species like the black bear and the identification of vernal pools in the borough. The effort made in updating the ERI was appreciated, with one council member noting, “You’re doing thousands of dollars of work for the town for free every time you do any of this work.”

The meeting wrapped up with housekeeping issues, such as approving minutes from previous meetings, and scheduling the next public hearing for Thursday, July 13th, 2023. The council also hinted at new rules expected from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and pledged to inform the public about these updates.

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