Leonia Council Approves Controversial DPW Appointment, Addresses Housing and Landscaping Ordinances

In a recent assembly of the Leonia Borough Council, members confronted a spectrum of topics from municipal housing reforms to landscaping regulations. The most captivating point of discussion, however, revolved around a debated appointment within the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Highlighting the evening’s events was the somewhat contentious approval of resolution 2023-168, an appointment within the DPW. Mayor Judah Zeigler expressed reservations about promoting a longstanding crew member to a supervisory role, prompting spirited debate among the council. Nonetheless, Councilman Pat Fusco championed the appointee’s track record of increased responsibility, setting the stage for a majority vote in favor of the promotion.

The council also deliberated on three major ordinances. One such ordinance, 2023-10, aims to amend Leonia’s Municipal Code to create an Affordable Housing Overlay Zone (AH-2). This move is seen as a crucial step in addressing the region’s housing disparity by setting forth qualifications for very low, low, and moderate-income households.

Another focal point was ordinance 2023-12, which targeted environmental and noise pollution by regulating the use of tools and equipment, specifically internal combustion leaf blowers, by commercial landscapers on certain days, with a total ban on Sundays. Debate ensued over the clarity of the ordinance’s language, but after rigorous discussion, amendments were unanimously approved, resulting in adoption of the ordinance.

The council additionally addressed ordinance 2023-13, dealing with a proposed $500,000 project to improve Broad Avenue. Although a generous $239,000 grant from the NJDOT was received, the council had to account for the full cost, as per regulatory requirements. The ordinance passed on the first reading, with a hearing set for early August.

A significant concern raised during the meeting was the financing of ADA-compliant restrooms at the senior center. The council agreed on the issuance of bonds to finance the project due to a looming Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) deadline.

A contentious discussion ensued regarding change orders for the Municipal Building involving additional carpentry and electrical work. These last-minute additions, costing over $40,000, were requested by the police department to cover security gaps overlooked in the original plan. Mayor Zeigler criticized the involved parties, specifically the architect and project manager, for these oversight costs.

Finally, issues surrounding the implementation of reverse angle parking and sidewalk maintenance policy were thoroughly debated. The council voiced concern over public education and potential accident risk with the new parking system. While discussions about the sidewalk repair policy yielded a broad consensus that homeowners should bear repair costs, an innovative proposal to negotiate a preferred rate for residents directly with contractors was put forward, pending legal consultation.

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