West Orange Council Tackles Road Safety and Dog Park Plans

In a recent West Orange Town Council meeting, two significant proposals were at the forefront: the Vision Zero Action Plan aimed at eliminating traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030, and the introduction of regulations and fees for the proposed dog park. These topics garnered considerable attention as they directly impact the community’s safety and recreational offerings.

The Vision Zero presentation, which seeks to address road safety through a holistic approach, involved various stakeholders, including the Department of Transportation, NV5 Consultants, the Badani Foundation, local school superintendents, and members of the pedestrian safety board. The NV5 Consultants provided an in-depth overview of the plan that includes seeking federal funding, community outreach, crash data analysis, and the development of a high injury network. The plan’s focus on equity analysis to prioritize interventions for road segments was particularly notable. The traffic engineer suggested improvements such as road diets, roundabouts, and pedestrian safety enhancements, underlining the importance of a task force dedicated to implementing these measures.

Parallel to the discussions on road safety, the proposed dog park was another topic of interest. The Director of the Health Department presented plans including the park’s location, features, and regulations, along with a proposed amendment to the township ordinance. The dog park’s rules stipulate that all dogs must have a valid license, vaccinations, and a park pass, with proposed fees of $10 for residents and $20 for non-residents. The revenue would contribute to the park’s maintenance and equipment costs. Additionally, a committee formation for the grand opening event on May 5th was announced, including activities like food trucks and a dog parade, with pre-registration required.

The council also discussed other issues, including the tree ordinance, which has been a concern due to the drastic loss of tree canopy coverage and its impact on flooding. The town forester emphasized the importance of a tree fund to support planting efforts and replace valuable trees. The environmental commission chairman stressed the necessity of compromise in finalizing the tree ordinance and complying with state mandates.

Public comments revealed a range of community concerns. One resident inquired about the High Injury Network and the involvement of the County in addressing roadway changes. Another raised the issue of development on a 120.5-acre parcel owned by West Essex Highlands Inc, citing potential impacts on educational equity. Concerns were also voiced about the tree replacement fund’s potential misuse and the impact of major subdivision developments on the tree canopy.

The matter of public comment drew attention as the council president announced a suspension of Zoom audience comments, with a motion to limit public comments to agenda items to prevent prolonged meetings. There was a proposal to reduce the public comment time limit, with some council members emphasizing the importance of allowing residents the full five minutes to provide substantive views on complex topics.

Discussions on the potential impact of proposed ordinances on the community, the need for safety measures tailored to senior citizens, and the restoration of honor in council proceedings also took center stage. The council unequivocally condemned hate speech and anti-Semitic rhetoric from a previous meeting, deciding to eliminate public comment from the Zoom audience to prevent similar incidents.

Moreover, the council touched upon the Downtown West Orange Alliance Special Improvement District 2024 Budget, with plans for community events and enhancements to the downtown area. A public comment highlighted the need for additional garbage cans.

Lastly, the council confronted internal procedural topics, including the public comment process and the mayor’s veto power. There were calls for better conduct in public discourse, training on free speech and hate speech, and collaboration with law enforcement and the Anti-Defamation League to address prior incidents of disrespectful behavior.

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.
Susan McCartney
City Council Officials:
Michelle Casalino, Asmeret Ghebremicael, Bill Rutherford, Susan Scarpa, Tammy Williams

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