By Jenny Cowan
Director of Community Relations Matt Blake reported that the long awaited State Bank Board meeting scheduled for May 8 had been cancelled. The meeting would have allowed the release of funds to move forward with TDR plans.
“We had a bad day last week when the SADC (State Agriculture Development Committee) unilaterally cancelled the meeting,” said Blake. Blake explained that last spring the SADC had pushed to require the township to first complete several major tasks as a prerequisite to the release of funds.
At that time the Bank Board had sided with the township, requiring only that a viable sewer plan be demonstrated. The township has complied with that request. Blake stated that the SADC is currently in the process of making up their list of new requirements.
“It is hard to say why the SADC has suddenly gone so negative and creating new road blocks since the township has been doing everything requested by them,” Blake said. A meeting will be scheduled between all involved parties to “hopefully iron out the speed bumps and get things back on track,” Blake added.
In resolutions, the Committee passed a resolution to make an appointment for a township conflict solicitor. The current township attorney, Mark Shoemaker, has started his own law practice and therefore the township does not have a backup in case Shoemaker has a meeting conflict.
The township awarded the position to Michael Aimino of Aimino and Dennen. Shoemaker will continue to advise the township in his current role, while Aimino will only attend if Shoemaker has a conflict on the subject matter or cannot attend a meeting.
The Committee also passed a resolution authorizing the hire of a full time public works laborer, as well as authorizing two part time positions for summer help in the Public Works department.
In other resolutions, the Committee approved a request for a fireworks display for a private resident on Woodstown Road, who has an annual display for July 4.
During the public portion of the meeting, Woolwich resident Damon Suriani brought forth some concerns about the parking restrictions at Locke Avenue Park. Suriani currently operates the concession stand at the park, and noted that recently there have been other vendors in the park selling items that he also sells, such as water ice.
“I just want to understand whether or not these vendors have approval and what the rules are,” said Suriani. “No one has gotten a license from us for peddling water ice in Woolwich,” Mayor Sam Maccarone said.
The Committee encouraged Suriani to notify the police department if he sees other vendors that may not have been approved by the township, selling items in the park. Councilman Jonathan Fein added that anyone who applies for a license to peddle is subject to a background check, which is meant to help keep township residents safe.
Suriani was hesitant to cause any trouble by calling police, saying, “I don’t want to be that guy.” However, Deputy Mayor Alan Schwager told him, “You may have to be that guy.”
Suriani also raised his concern regarding the recent enforcement against parking on the grass in the park. Recently the township has begun an initiative to make parking safer, and police have been issuing warnings and tickets for cars parked on the grass.
Suriani explained that he needs to be able to drive his truck up to the concession stand and park it behind the stand while making deliveries. Because his automobile is company owned, he did not want to risk getting a ticket while parked for deliveries.
After some discussion, the Committee decided that when the concession stand bid comes up again next year, a parking provision for deliveries noted in the contract. Until then, the police chief will be made aware that temporary parking for deliveries to the concession stand should be allowed.
Woolwich resident Jordan Schlump also addressed the committee. He said that this year the community garden was hosting 44 plots, full to capacity. He thanked the Committee for their support of the garden.
In Committee reports, Blake also opened up discussion on the acquisition of further open space. Blake explained that he sought guidance from the Committee, as it appeared there was some disagreement on acquisition plans. Currently there is a 10-acre parcel of land located on High Hill Road available for purchase.
The parcel would serve as a key trail-connector for Weatherby residents wishing to access parkland. The property is currently for sale, but the landowner has agreed to take it off the market if the township is interested in acquiring it.
Committeeman Frank Rizzi said that he had gone “back and forth” in his opinion of the property, but felt that at this time the township should wait before acquiring any more property.
Schwager expressed concerns about the financial aspect of the acquisition. “What would our return on investment be? Should we pay for wooded land that people may or may not walk on?” asked Shoemaker.
He also addressed concerns over the safety of crossing over a busy section with poor visibility of High Hill Road. “Are we going to promote crossing the road at a dangerous place?” asked Schwager.
Fein provided an alternate opinion. He noted that the parcel was a key part of the overall plan for developing parks in the township. “If we’re not going to step up and execute the plan, then what was the point of paying for a plan?” he asked.
After some discussion the Committee agreed that before moving forward with an acquisition of the property, a plan for how to safely cross over High Hill Road needs to be demonstrated.