Board Hopes Public Will Be More Active In Shaping Township's Future
Board members decide one, well-advertised public hearing on the new Mahwah Master Plan will be more effective than five separate hearings in different township neighborhoods
Mahwah is getting a new plan for its future. The township’s Master Plan, which surveys current development and land conditions in Mahwah and makes recommendations on future plans, is being completely redone for the first time in over 20 years.
At a planning board meeting earlier this month, the board, which will eventually adopt the retooled document, discussed whether or not residents would be interested in having input in the plan, and how it could best get people involved in making recommendations for the document.
“It is an important document, so we want to get as much public input as possible,” Board Chairman Todd Sherer said.
The Master Plan, a 130-page document covering land use, traffic, historic preservation and an inventory of the township’s current environmental landmarks and community facilities, does not contain any laws. Instead, it outlines ideals and suggestions that government bodies can use as a guide when making future decisions. Sherer said resident suggestions can be taken into consideration before adopting the document.
A final draft of the revitalized plan may be completed as early as mid-June, Planner Brigette Bogart of Burgis Associates, who has been working on the plan for over two years, said.
After that, the board is required to hold a public hearing on the document before it can be adopted. The board expressed concern that since not many residents have been involved in public meetings held during the rewriting of the document, not many Mahwahians will have a hand in shaping its future.
“I think we should take the show on the road,” Board member Ward Donigian said at the May 14 meeting. “Last time around, [when the Master Plan was redone in 1989], we held several public hearings on different nights in different sections of town, so that we could get as many people as possible involved in the process.” He suggested hosting five separate hearings, one at each fire house in Mahwah, in an effort to increase participation in the process.
"This is something that affects the whole town. I think we should try to get people from every section of Mahwah involved," he said.
Several other board members disagreed. “With all of the ways we have to solicit feedback from residents today using technology, I think holding five separate meetings is an outdated method,” Mayor Bill Laforet said. He added that the expense of advertising and hosting five meetings as opposed to one might not be “worth it” for the township.
The board decided that it would hold just one public meeting, at the Richard J. Martel Municipal Center on Corporate Drive. But, they said it would be well advertised using local media, social networking, and about a month of awareness advertising.
After a resident suggestion, the board also decided it would send out a reverse 911 call to residents about the hearing.
Though the document will likely be ready at the beginning of the summer, the board decided to wait until September to hold the hearing. Laforet said “being considerate of summer vacations” when asking for public input on government decisions is “common practice.”
The hearing was set for September 10.
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