Town Council Tackles Affordable Housing and Budget Concerns

In a recent meeting, the Washington (Bergen) Town Council tackled issues related to the new affordable housing regulations, the proposed 2024 budget, and various community projects. The meeting’s most discussions centered around the challenges posed by the new affordable housing regulations, which are considered more onerous than previous mandates, and the comprehensive plan to update the 1974 master plan in anticipation of these changes.

The affordable housing issue was at the forefront of the council’s agenda. The new regulations require municipalities to address 25% of their unmet housing needs, a stipulation that could have serious implications. Missing specific time frames could lead to the loss of protection from affordable housing lawsuits. The council debated the merits of updating the master plan now, especially given the potential impact of the 2020 census data on demographic projections and land use requirements. The possibility of forming a subcommittee to accelerate the master plan’s preparation was considered, as were the five specific points required under the mandated vulnerability assessment.

There was also a discussion about the financial and logistical aspects of the new master plan. The proposal estimated a nine-month process to complete the land use element, vulnerability assessment, and sustainability element, followed by the community facilities element. Funding for the study was another key topic, with the council considering the use of development fees and whether the reexamination funds could be capitalized as a capital expense.

Aside from housing, the council focused on the proposed 2024 budget. The budget highlighted an increase in the average property value and additional costs for various items, including insurance, non-union salary increases, and contributions to the library. The council discussed the potential for a 2% raise for non-union employees and the positive impact on employee motivation and morale. The proposed budget also allocated funds for capital projects like road improvements, license plate readers, and playground equipment replacement.

The Road Program was another topic, with updates on the progress of the 2024 initiative. The council discussed the selection of four roads for the program and the possibility of future projects. The funding of sidewalk repairs in conjunction with road resurfacing was also deliberated, as well as the fiscal responsibility of the budget in aligning with previous expenses.

The council also engaged in discussions on various community initiatives and projects. The Westwood High School competition cheer team was recognized for their undefeated season and first place win in the Big North Conference. Updates were provided on the Hometown Heroes veteran Banner program and the upcoming 5K run and health fair, which are set to accept online payments only.

Other projects discussed included the construction of bocce ball courts, repairs to DPW vehicles, and library programs. The ongoing signalization project at Garden State Parkway exit 168 and Washington Avenue was also addressed. The council expressed enthusiasm for the upcoming community events and initiatives, thanking those involved for their efforts.

A proposal to change the recycling pickup day sparked a debate due to potential inconvenience, and the council discussed the integration of electric vehicle charging stations into the commuter lot paving plans. Updates were also provided on the EPA audit, storm water mapping, and the progress of the Mcop Brook engineering design, focusing on sanitary issues and tree removal.

The council reviewed the budget for the summer recreation program, debating the ordinance wording and the program’s participant cap, which has been increased to 600. The possibility of giving township residents preference in program registration was discussed, ultimately deciding against it. The meeting concluded with the introduction of two ordinances amending the fee schedule for recreational activities and a request from a resident to address sinkholes on Ridgewood Road, before entering a closed session to discuss property negotiations.

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.
Peter Calamari
City Council Officials:
Michael Desena, Steven Cascio, Tom Sears, Michael Ullman, Daisy Velez, KEN POLLER (Twp. Attorney), MARK DICARLO (Twp. Administrator), GLEN BECKMEYER (Twp. Engineer), SUE WITKOWSKI (Twp. Clerk)

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