The recent Ridgewood Council meeting unfolded a multitude of important initiatives and critical discussions, characterized by the vibrant civic engagement and an intense debate over public comments’ length and timing.
Public comment took center stage at the meeting, with residents raising several points of concern. Most notable were criticisms levied against a consultant’s report on the Shetler property. Fretra De Silva expressed disappointment and embarrassment at what she perceived to be a lack of exhaustive investigation and factual basis in the report. De Silva urged the Council to consult further with historic consultants and experts, emphasizing the property’s historic and monetary value.
Similarly, Denise Lima voiced concern over unheard public voices, and like De Silva, she questioned the credibility of the consultant’s resume. “The people from the T Thomas Fortune… Montclair planning board… mayor of Clinton… they’re not aware of Mr. Primavera,” Lima noted, calling for greater due diligence in validating consultant qualifications.
Cynthia Okie, reading a statement from Ann Loving, addressed an ongoing issue of public comments being cut off during meetings. Loving expressed relief that Councilwoman Lorraine Reynolds had put this topic on the agenda and hoped for the future allowance of all public comments.
The council, acknowledging these concerns, deliberated at length on the rules and policies for public comment, notably the potential implementation of a curfew and duration limits. Some council members suggested limiting public comments to three minutes, aiming to maintain a balance between public engagement and the wellness of the council’s staff. One unnamed council member stated, “There comes a point at which I’m just not as… sharp at 12, as I am at 10:30. We all get tired.”
An intense discussion followed on the idea of reducing the number of monthly meetings from three to two, along with setting a cut-off time for new additions to the council packet. This drew attention to the necessity of streamlining meetings and managing late additions to the Council’s agenda.
Apart from the heated discourse on public comment policies, the council discussed several ongoing and upcoming initiatives. They praised the re-establishment of the Kiwanis Club and the development of a new municipal website. Additionally, the launch of a photo contest and the ‘Adopt a Sapling’ initiative were mentioned, alongside the praise for the Project Pride Committee for its efforts in rewarding residents for their beautiful front yards.
However, amidst these positive civic engagements, the council faced critique for the Pedestrian Plaza’s suspension through Labor Day due to declining foot traffic during the hot summer months.
The meeting showcased the vibrant community engagement in Ridgewood and illustrated the council’s commitment to address public concerns. However, the debate over public comment policies and critiques of the Shetler property consultant’s report underscored the challenges the council faces as it strives to maintain transparency and foster meaningful dialogue.