Good evening, everyone, and thanks to all who are joining us both here in the Council Chambers and online tonight. For the first time in two years, I’m happy to say that masks are optional here tonight – the result of vastly declining COVID numbers and your ongoing commitment to the well-being of our community throughout this pandemic.
Thank you to the many residents who have asked for suggestions on how to best assist the people of Ukraine as they not only continue to mount a bold military defense against the Russian invasion, but also face a catastrophic humanitarian crisis impacting citizens of all ages. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine in their brave efforts to preserve their democracy.
The Westfield Clergy Association will host a vigil for Ukraine on Thursday, March 10, at 6:00PM in Mindowaskin Park. Donations of the following items will be accepted:
Thanks to several Ukrainian-American Westfield residents and other local volunteers, we've collated a list of vetted resources to assist Ukraine, which I posted
PROSPECT AND FERRIS REDEVELOPMENT
I want to once again thank the residents who came out to our last meeting to share their concerns about the proposed redevelopment at Prospect and Ferris. I’ve also received a few emails from residents with additional questions and, although there is no action being taken on this issue tonight, I’d like to take a few minutes to ensure that everyone has an understanding of the process and next steps.
As you know, this Council unanimously adopted a redevelopment plan for this project, which is only the first step in what is a multi-step process for any future development on the site. The adopted redevelopment plan outlines the land use regulations for the site, including not only height and setbacks, but also detailed building design standards, the inclusion of a green roof, nine affordable housing units, and the obligation to reuse and restore the historic home at 112 Ferris Place, which is being historically designated by ordinance tonight.
This project will not go to the Planning Board for site approval until the governing body first authorizes a redevelopment agreement with the redeveloper. As a condition of that agreement, this Council is requiring the redeveloper to provide a Historic Reuse Plan and Protection Plan for 112 Ferris Place, and also a Traffic Impact Study to determine the impact of the project on traffic patterns in the area and identify potential improvements to traffic infrastructure and pedestrian safety. Only when this governing body is satisfied that the project will enhance and not negatively impact the area will a redeveloper agreement be approved. The site plans must then be reviewed and approved by the Planning Board at a public hearing.
As I mentioned at our last meeting, the data collection for the Traffic Impact Study has been underway for some time and has undergone an initial review by our own traffic circulation consultants, WSP, the same firm who prepared the Traffic and Circulation element of our Master Plan, so they are already intimately familiar with town traffic flow and circulation. They have conducted car count verifications and implemented additional camera work to ensure the validity of the information they received from the redeveloper. The scope of this study includes the intersections of Ferris and Prospect, East Broad and Prospect, Clark and North, and Clark and Ferris. As we all know, these intersections have been problematic for quite some time, and improvements need to be made regardless of any proposed development. Any work WSP conducts for us will be paid via escrow account by the redeveloper as part of the redevelopment agreement.
In the next few weeks, WSP's recommendations to mitigate congestion and improve current traffic flow will be forwarded to the Town's Public Safety and Transportation Committee for review, which is chaired by Councilman Jim Boyes. Chairman Boyes and the Public Safety committee will review the recommendations, revise them if necessary, and then forward their recommendations to be presented to the public and adopted by the Town Council.
All of this is to say that we are not yet at the point of finalizing our redevelopment agreement. The necessary work is underway, and safety remains the top priority. Thank you for your input and engagement as this due diligence continues.
FINANCE POLICY COMMITTEE ITEMS (Remarks by Councilwoman Habgood, Finance Policy Committee Chair)
Tonight, from the Finance Committee, we’ll vote on a resolution authorizing the application to the NJ Clean Energy Community Energy Planning Grant Program. This is a grant for $10,000 to assist in the creation of a community sustainable energy plan, and the Green Team has identified two areas of focus that include initiating a sustainable community energy plan for the Westfield Memorial Library and building a plan with Ciel Power to encourage more residents to do energy audits and improve their home energy efficiency.
We’ll also vote on a resolution to approve temporary emergency appropriations, and I’d like to clarify what that means for the public. This is merely an adjustment to the temporary budget that was approved at the first meeting in January to allow us to continue our operations until the 2022 municipal budget is adopted. This is done annually as a matter of practice since municipal budgets are typically not approved until mid-April each year.
CODE REVIEW AND TOWN PROPERTY COMMITTEE ITEMS(Remarks by Councilman Parmelee, Code Review & Town Property Committee Chair)
We’ll hear an ordinance tonight on second reading to update our development application and escrow fees, which were last revised in 2008. As we discussed at our February 8 meeting when the ordinance was introduced, the fees suggested are based upon those charged by other municipalities in New Jersey. The ordinance also permits the Zoning Officer to charge her time spent on reviewing applications that are before one of our boards so that these costs are not the responsibility of all taxpayers and instead paid by the applicant. This ordinance has been reviewed by the Planning Board.
Also on second reading, we’ll hear ordinances to historically designate three more properties – two private properties at 23 Stoneleigh Park and 112 Ferris Place, as well as the historic coffee kiosk owned by the Town at the South Avenue Train Station.
These three properties will increase the number of historic designations to nine under this administration, the most in Town history. You can read more about the history of these properties in the HPC reports on our website at westfieldnj.gov/historicpreservation. Many thanks to James Ward and Robert & Anastasia Harrison for designating their homes, and to the HPC for their ongoing work to help us maintain these pieces of Westfield’s history for many years to come.
PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE ITEMS(Remarks by Councilman Contract, Public Works Committee Chair)
Tonight, we’ll vote on a resolution to award a contract for annual tree purchases to be made, following a public bidding process. Our plans this year are to stay on pace with over 600 new trees planted throughout Town.
In addition, we’ll vote on a resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Township of Scotch Plains for the collection of bulk waste. This will formally allow Scotch Plains residents to use our Conservation Center’s bulky waste program at a higher cost than Westfield residents. Scotch Plains requested the shared service as they are discontinuing their curbside bulky waste program, like many municipalities, due to unfavorable market conditions.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
Last but certainly not least, I want to acknowledge International Women's Day today, which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. I’m very proud that Westfield has very strong female role models, including the women here on the dais with me – Councilwomen Habgood and Mackey – as well as the many female leaders in Town Hall and on our Boards and Commissions, affirming our commitment to ensure that those who serve the community reflect the community, and that we cannot achieve our fullest potential if we don’t leverage the talent and contributions of everyone, including women.
And speaking of female leaders, we’re going to start tonight’s business at hand with a proclamation recognizing the 110th anniversary of the Girl Scouts.
With that, let’s get to work.