Brightwood Bike Trails On Hold

By REBECCA MEHORTER
Specially Written for The Leader/Times

WESTFIELD — The Westfield Town Council met Tuesday to discuss Brightwood Park, the rehabilitation designation for the town, the upcoming election and leftover storm debris.

In her opening statements, Mayor Shelley Brindle addressed the continued questions from residents about Brightwood Park. She said that residents have been vocal about their feelings related to proposed mountain bike trails in the park, but that, “we all want the same thing for Brightwood. It’s suffered from years of neglect.”

Mayor Brindle told the public she anticipates no further official discussion on the future of Brightwood Park for approximately six months — the amount of time she said she anticipates it will take to complete the environmental review.

“I just do want to assure everybody … that there is no plan to move forward on any changes in Brightwood in the immediate future, bike trails or otherwise, without doing our due diligence with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Green Acres,” she said. “Once we have that information, which will take time, we all work together to discuss the best path forward in enhancing and beautifying the park to ensure it is safe and accessible for all our residents.”

The council heard and approved General Ordinance No. 2194 on first reading. The ordinance amends General Ordinance No. 2171 to change the applicability of five-year tax exemptions and abatements.

Two ordinances had their advertised hearings at the meeting and passed unanimously. General Ordinance No. 2189 requires “all applications for preliminary and final major subdivision approval and preliminary and final major site plan approval shall complete and submit the following Green Development Checklist.” The compliance with the items on the checklist, however, is not a condition of approval. The checklist includes items related to the building’s low-impact features, water reduction and energy consumption.

General Ordinance No. 2190 amends the exterior property maintenance code to provide definitions, to require the control of weeds, grasses and invasive species on residents’ properties, and to “establish minimum maintenance standards for the exterior of all premises.”

Also mentioned at the meeting, which took place on National Voter Registration Day, was the General Election on Tuesday, November 3. The election, as declared by Governor Phil Murphy, is a primarily vote-by-mail election. Every registered voter will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot, which voters can return in a number of ways, including at their polling place on Election Day, through the mail or by secure ballot drop-off box. Locations of boxes and more information can be found at unioncountyvotes.com/.

“I don’t think we can communicate it enough, but this is a very different year,” Mayor Brindle said.

Resident Kerry Murphy spoke during public comment about voting concerns.

“Will someone be checking IDs at the voter box in town?” she asked. “Or are we just going and dropping it in? Because generally, if we were able to go to the polls, and go to the booth, we have to show ID. So I want to make sure the same protocol is going to be followed.”

“You don’t show ID when you go to vote in person,” Town Attorney Thomas Jardim said.

“I do. I did when I voted at Edison,” Ms. Murphy said.

“Well, there’s no legal requirement,” Mr. Jardim said.

“Will someone be there, essentially, manning the box?” she asked. “Perhaps we can address that a little bit further because it just feels willy-nilly at this point.”

“It’s impermissible under state law for anybody to check ID for somebody to be able to vote,” Mr. Jardim said. According to the New Jersey State Department, voters may be required to show identification if they have not previously voted in a federal election or have failed to properly identify themselves in voter registration.

Town Administrator Jim Gildea reminded Ms. Murphy that there will be places where individuals can give their ballot in person and that the county is in charge of voting.

Councilman David Contract spoke on behalf of the Public Works Committee to say that the committee had met and is actively looking for a better way to collect storm debris following future storms. Councilman Mark LoGrippo asked what residents should do with leftover storm debris. Mr. Gildea reminded Mr. LoGrippo that the municipality is only responsible for town debris.

Resident debris, Mr. Gildea said, is the resident’s responsibility. Mr. Gildea said Public Works has hung door hangers on those homes with debris still out front, as, “We do not want anything in the street before leaf season.”

The next Westfield Town Council meeting will take place at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, October 13.