Millburn Town Council Debates Historic Preservation, Main Street Program, and Public Concerns in Latest Meeting

In a recent Millburn Town Council meeting, members and residents engaged in rigorous debate over several issues. The council discussed the adoption of an ordinance related to the demolition of historic properties, the potential benefits of enrolling in the state Main Street New Jersey program, and addressed public concerns ranging from fair share housing to the governance of the Special Improvement District (SID). Public comment periods also sparked discussions on traffic safety, environmental issues, and the transparency of the council’s decision-making processes.

The meeting opened with A discussion regarding an ordinance aimed at amending and supplementing the township’s development regulations and zoning ordinance. The ordinance, which generated public interest, focuses on the total demolition of historic properties, specifically within the Short Hills Park district and the Wyoming historic district. Residents voiced concerns about the implications for houses in the historic district and the distinction between partial and full demolition. Questions were raised about the transparency and formation of the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) and the extent of its powers. Residents feared that the ordinance would increase the powers of the HPC without sufficient public input, affecting transparency and democratic process.

The council clarified the ordinance’s intent, stating that it was designed to protect historic assets outlined in the master plan. The properties identified in the historic preservation element of the master plan were the focus, and the ordinance was said to allow for other property modifications while preventing total demolitions. The appeals process was outlined, giving homeowners the right to appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment and, if necessary, seek remedy in court. Despite these assurances, skepticism remained among residents concerning the ordinance’s impact on property rights and the potential lack of disclosure during property transactions.

Another key topic was the potential enrollment in the Main Street New Jersey program, which offers technical assistance and funding for economic development initiatives. A detailed presentation by a representative from the Explore Millburn board highlighted the benefits of the program, addressing concerns raised by council members about the requirements for receiving funds and the potential obligations or control imposed by the state or federal government. The Mayor assured that if funds were received, they would be used solely for municipal property-related projects and that no “pet projects” would be pursued without full council consultation. The council also discussed how businesses could access resources through the program and the implications of ongoing litigation involving the SID on the application process. Ultimately, the council approved the Special Improvement District (SID) assessment role, albeit amid public concerns about the SID’s governance, transparency, and taxation practices.

During the meeting, residents expressed several concerns during public comment periods. These included requests for speed limit signs on Hobart Avenue due to traffic safety concerns, the accuracy of public documents like the annual debt statement, and the limitations on public comments during meetings. Moreover, questions were raised about the use of the vacant Bed Bath and Beyond property and whether the council had considered acquiring it for municipal use.

The Environmental Commission discussed a potential collaboration with the Flood Mitigation Committee and requested a larger meeting room for their growing needs. The Public Works Department updated on parking deck maintenance and utility work on Main Street. Additionally, the Community Service Award Committee deliberated on potential award recipients for the year.

The meeting also saw discussions on fair share housing, with Stephanie Morgan expressing concerns about the pressure to sign developers’ agreements and the uncertainty surrounding pending legislation. Committee members responded to these concerns, as well as to other public issues such as road closures and the bond anticipation notes.

As the meeting progressed, the council examined an ordinance to regulate smoke shops and debated whether to include cigar shops in the category of prohibited uses. This led to a vote, with one member opposing the resolution based on the potential impact on local businesses.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Mayor:
Annette Romano
City Council Officials:
Frank Saccomandi IV, Michael H. Cohen, Tara B. Prupis, Ben Stoller, Christine Gatti (Township Clerk), Jessica Cruz (Executive Assistant)

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