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Mountainside Council Passes Budget, Amends Land Use Ordinance

Budget increases taxes for an average household by $113.84

The Mountainside Borough Council passed two resolutions - one approving the budget and the other amending a land use ordinance for an industrial zone - that have large potential impact on the financial core of the borough. 

The budget, as presented by Mayor Paul Mirabelli, increased by $253,277.99 from last year, reaching a fiscal total of $7,569,933.30 for general purpose for the borough.

With the increase comes higher taxes, he said, explaining that a recent tax assessment which noted lower property values, especially in the commercial areas, require higher taxes. The tax rate per average household will be $113.84.

He said the budget was affected by several unforeseen circumstances, especially coming from last year's natural disasters that cost Mountainside more than $60,000 in cleanup and an additional $24,750 in damages. 

Another big ticket increase was in salaries, where $97,386 was put aside for police salaries - a few thousands more dollars than last year's budget allotted. 

He did note several areas, including FEMA relief and a break from the Rahway Sewage Authority that leveled out the budget but it still ended up with a significant increase. 

But the biggest issue plaguing Mountainside is the devaluing of the property, where commercial buildings are filing for tax assessments that are costing the borough. He said the budget for tax assessments was raised $12,000 from the previous year. 

The issue of devaluing property came up with another ordinance that suggested amending the land use variance for the light industrial zone in Mountainside, where many residents said changing the use from commercial to recreational will wreak havoc in their neighborhoods. 

The council defended its decision to pass the ordinance by saying that there are several recreational facilities in the area, including baseball fields and tennis courts. 

But neighbors from Mountainside and Springfield stood strong in their stance that the ordinance was a political ploy to make the construction of the Triboro Sports Complex, already approved by the planning board, easier. 

The 80,645-square foot sports center will be built at 270 Sheffield Street in Mountainside. The sports center would include fields for soccer and lacrosse as well as space designated for retail sales and a café.

Opponents to the facility, by and large residents of Springfield, fear it will bring more traffic to and increase the likelihood of accidents in their neighborhood.

Springfield resident Richard Blecker, whose property would line up with the proposed location, said he didn't want the sports complex sitting in his backyard, and passing the ordinance altering usage will just cause more traffic and safety hazards in the area. 

Blecker said a traffic report that was given as testimony to the planning board was inaccurate, and the sports complex would result in a significant increase of traffic and safety violations that he doesn't want in his neighborhood. He said the building will decrease property values in the area, bring in unwanted guests and disrupt what he considers a calm and peaceful area.

"They are more interested in ratables than their residents," he said in front of the board, asking them a series of 19 questions into what he considers was an ordinance hidden from the public.

Despite his accusations, Board Attorney Jon Post said the board followed all necessary precautions in notifying the public that a hearing on this ordinance would be discussed in the meeting. 

The board does not have the authority to address the Triboro complex because the application is still pending in the planning board, but Board Member William Lane said the use ordinance change “will be a natural fit to open up the master plan for the zone.”

He said that empty commercial buildings in the area are causing huge problems with property values throughout the borough, and projects like the Triboro Complex may help even out the budget increases if the project is passed.

 

OTHER BUSINESS:
The board also issued three proclamations for service to Mountainside. The first proclamation was awarded to William Tomko for the French Legion of Honor Medal for his service in World War II. Tomko, a longtime Mountainside resident served as member of the U.S.S. Barnett, and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy among other battles. He was also awarded with a proclamation from the New Jersey Senate, thanking him for his service.

Debra Schranck and Helen Borcher were awarded the Mabel Young Good Neighbor Award, an annual award given to a member of the Mountainside community to honor someone who has helped out their neighbors. Letters were sent in to support the nomination of Schranck and Borcher, who were both on hand to accept their awards and thank their community for continued support. "It's what we do in Mountainside," Schranck said.

Governor Livingston Senior Logan Kelley was awarded a proclamation after he became the highest scoring basketball player in the history of the high school, scoring 1,324 in his career. He finished fourth in the state with 24.4 points on average per game. He took the opportunity to thank the board and announce his decision to attend Rutgers University in the fall.  

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