On a night when members of a national championship cheerleading team from Howell cheered them on members of the Town Council worked together Tuesday night on an ordinance they hope will help improve living conditions in town while not being too intrusive to residents lives.
The ordinance focuses on property maintenance for issues ranging from where cars can be parked to how high the grass can grow to whether a resident can have a boat parked on their property. Having been brought up at previous meetings there were many questions that were raised but by the end of Tuesday's meeting there was general agreement on the finished product.
Councilman Juan Malave was the first to question the ordinance as it was presented and helped to bring about the first change. Malave said he was concerned that some of the items that were listed as not being allowed on properties including trailers, tractors, car carriers and tow trucks should be allowed on bigger lots.
Malave said for properties that are 80,001 square feet those items should be allowed as long as they can be stored in the backyards of the properties "Not in the front, definitely not in the streets or in the driveways," he said. "I think two acres is big enough that they can accommodate these kinds of vehicles."
Councilwoman Pauline Smith, who was one of the biggest critics of the ordinance also worked to change some of the wording in the ordinance to allow different sized vehicles from parking at residences. That was especially true for tow trucks and flatbed trucks that residents might use as part of their jobs.
Councilman Robert Nicastro said citing a popular television show maybe there was a way to differentiate between larger commercial trucks and emergency vehicles like tow trucks. That was met with some resistance by Mayor Robert Walsh before Township Attorney McKenna Kingdon brought some historical perspective to the discussion.
Kingdon said that in 2005 commercial vehicles less than 25 feet have been allowed to park on the streets while vehicles larger could not. Kingdon said the council could have the ordinance limit the size of vehicles to having no vehicle more than 25 feet parked in any property less than 80,000 square feet. That was amended to 30 to allow flatbed tow trucks.
In an effort to make the ordinance more conforming to different parts of town the term commercial vehicles was removed and replaced solely by the size of the car. Councilman Nicastro pointed to a neighbor who has two cars they use for work but are not the size of the larger trucks the ordinance was designed to control.
"I like councilwoman Smith's recommendation to exclude pickup trucks, SUVs, even vans," said Councilman Malave. "We're talking about gross injustice to neighbors, we're not talking about doing what you have to do to make a living," added Mayor Walsh.
This part of the discussion was also reinforced by Code Enforcement Officer Chris Jackson who said he had no problem with the 30 foot limits. "Whether or not it's commercial or not," he said. "I have no problem with 30 feet."
Another change was whether boats could be parked on lots of different sizes in the township. According to the way the ordinance was originally proposed there were no boats of any size allowed to be parked on properties under 5000 square feet. That restriction also applied to campers and recreation trailers.
Township Manager Helene Schlegel asked what the definition of a boat would be especially for the smaller lot sizes in town. Schlegel asked about residents wanting to store something small like a canoe or a small boat or jetski on their property.
Jackson said the township has no ordinances regarding boats being parked on properties, which is part of why this proposed ordinance was being introduced.
In an effort to make the ordinance more effective the wording was changed to allow non-motorized boats.
Mayor Walsh commended Jackson and Kingdon for their work in putting this ordinance together. "I've known for years now that you needed something in place to make things better for the residents of the township as a whole," he said. "I commend that. I know you put a lot of time and a lot of effort. This has been talked about for a long time."
While changes may have to be made in the future the mayor said he was pleased with what the end result was as of Tuesday's meeting. "I think we have a good ordinance. A lot of work was put into it," he said. "It's not going to be perfect, maybe we have to tweak it down the road. The answer is yes. Let's put something in place to protect the residents at the same time."
The public hearing is scheduled to be held at the council's March 6 meeting.