The town council approved a motion to prepare the necessary paperwork to rescind the three zoning ordinances – 1684, 1686, and 1687 – that would have allowed for the building of a 600,000 square-foot retail shopping center near the Sheraton Mahwah Hotel on Route 17.
The council also approved a movement to have a non-binding referendum asking how citizens feel about the proposed mall project added to the November ballot.
Both movements were made by Councilman John Spiech.
Spiech moved to hold a special meeting next Thursday, August 18, at which the finalized ordinances will be voted on. The township attorney, John Conte, Jr., now has until next Thursday to draw up the documents, which will be officially voted on by the council then.
Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio, who to run for Mayor this May, introduced an actual ordinance to rescind the three ordinances in question. Though the council decided that the township attorney would be able to amend the ordinance, DiGiulio said she felt the council should introduce the ordinance sooner rather than later. The ordinance was also approved by the Council, and a final vote on it is likewise slated for next Thursday’s special meeting.
Over 100 members and supporters of the of the Committee to Stop Mahwah Mall attended Thursday night’s town council meeting, counting it as a victory for citizens of the township.
“I am just so happy that the council responded to the people,” said Mike Richards, one of the group’s organizers.
The Committee had previously signed by 2,020 registered voters in the township in an effort to get a non-binding referendum on the mall added to the November ballot. At Thursday’s meeting, Conte explained his opinion that the question can only be added after the township council introduced it, and not solely with a resident-initiated movement. Conte cited previous court decisions that he said created that precedent.
Though the residents in attendance initially displayed disappointment at the attorney’s recommendation, the sentiment in the room quickly changed once the council made movements for a referendum and the retraction of the three ordinances approved by the council on March 31.
A number of the CSMM members addressed the board to express gratitude and to commend the citizenry for “banding together” to fight a decision they did not agree with.
“It’s a confusing time in American politics right now,” said Meg Winthrop, who said that on a larger scale, citizens are losing faith in national politicians. The pressure the group was able to apply to the council, she said, is indicative of a responsive government that she found reassuring.
“I feel like there is hope for America now, not just Mahwah,” she said.