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westfield nj
Language to Be Written for Better Understanding By Residents

Planning Board Begins Reviewing Revised Town Land Use Ordinance

By CANDACE WALLER Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

The Westfield Planning Board heard for the first time the new revisions to the updated Land Use Ordinance at its Monday meeting.

Charles H. Brandt, Town Attorney and the Chairman of the Ordinance Review Committee, along with committee members Blais Brancheau, the town’s professional planner; and Jeremiah P. O’Neil, zoning official, were on hand to explain the proposal.

Mr. Brandt said after the meeting that he felt it "went very well," adding that "the comments were really good. We kept a lot of the old information because it would be a mistake to make a departure from it when the policies have been around for so long."

"I think the (Ordinance Review Committee) staff did a tremendous job," concurred board member Vic Trzesniowski. "It’s heads above what 90 percent of other municipalities have."

Mr. Brancheau said the length of time until the ordinance could be put into effect would depend on how detailed board members are in their review.

"It went especially well. It’s a lot to digest," he said.

Mr. Brandt added that as far as the effects on citizens themselves, there would be minimum change.

"The big impact will be on what they can do on the property," Mr. Brandt said. "For example, they will have to have the pool a certain amount of feet from their home. It doesn’t affect already existing structures - just when people come in for applications they will have to meet requirements."

Defining the terminology in the new Land Use Ordinance was a major part of the board’s discussion.

"Definitions were a problem in the previous ordinance," Mr. Brandt said at the meeting. "They weren’t clear or not explained. We got rid of the ambiguous statements and added an index. We tried to make this more user-friendly."

The documents will be accompanied by a listing in the back that will allow citizens to have a better understanding of the codes because the language will be defined and consistent. Previously, this type of information was available only to lawyers.

Article No. 4, which deals with fees, will remain the same except in dealing with fees for professionals.

"The changes we made center on how to handle expert fees," Mr. Brandt explained. "We dealt with performance guarantees when making public improvements."

The ways in which an individual can apply for a variance were changed slightly so that people submitting applications to the Building Department would have to meet certain requirements and complete the conditions of the requirements in a specific length of time before applications could be accepted.

The section of the ordinance dealing with final site plans was designed so that the builder must satisfy conditions before he gets the permit.

The ordinance calls for road signs to be designed in accordance with guidelines established by the state.

Article No. 11 brought some debate over the definition of a professional, and whether someone can establish a business in an area primarily reserved for doctors and lawyers. Technology, however, has increased the types of services doctors can perform in their offices.

"It’s not about politics. We were concerned with the level of care," said Mr. Brancheau.

The provisions prohibit certain buildings, such as an abortion clinic, from being in the zone.

"We were more interested in preventing a methadone clinic or mini hospital. This would increase parking and traffic in the area," Mr. Brancheau explained.

The prevalence of newspaper and magazine vending machines in certain areas also was discussed. Mr. Trzesniowski suggested a license for the owners of those machines. Many of them are not kept up and can get in the way, he said.

"These are not isolated incidences," Mr. Trzesniowski said. "It’s a rampant problem." Provisions in Article No. 13 have been put in for hot tubs and sheds. There is also a section prohibiting skateboarding facilities.

The board heard up to Article No. 15, opting to hear the rest of the new Land Use Ordinance at another time. The board will hand in comments to board secretary Kenneth B. Marsh, who is also the Town Engineer, in two weeks.

"We’re not going to craft a perfect document," Mr. Marsh said. "It will require some adjustment when we use it. I think it’s important that great steps are taken to get it completed. It’s something we can go on."

The Town Council will review ordinance during a four-hour meeting this Saturday morning, September 13.

Copyright 1997
TheWestfield Leader
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Revised: September 14, 1997.