By Chris Rotolo |
TINTON FALLS – About 200 Tinton Falls residents crowded into the courtroom Tuesday, July 10 to take council members to task about their stance on a Monmouth County engineering initiative introduced in May.
At issue was a proposal that could improve traffic flow and safety at the T intersection of Hance and Sycamore avenues, two county-owned roads with a rural feel.
However, the two concept plans presented both require the widening of traffic lanes and the seizure of residential property along Hance, Sycamore and the borough’s own Hope Road – a deeply unpopular idea among residents.
Despite Mayor Vito Perillo – who does not have a vote on council matters – issuing a letter in opposition of the project to the Monmouth County Freeholders on June 25, and council member Christopher Pak assuring residents on Tuesday that he and his fellow elected officials had the community’s best interests in mind, many on hand, including Joseph Augustine, were not convinced.
“I keep hearing council members say ‘it belongs to the county, it’s up to the county.’ But we are the county! We are the borough and we are the state,” Augustine said. “The properties being impacted here don’t belong to you or the freeholders or any government official. They belong to the people who pay the taxes.”
Members of the assemblage, like Peter Karavites, called for the council to take an official stand on the matter in opposition of the proposed concept plans and were dismayed to find that Gary Baldwin, council president, refused to allow a vote.
“I’ve been through 16 years of this and at no time has any council member voted ‘yes’ for this intersection project. They firmly said ‘no.’ I don’t understand why Mr. Baldwin says that we can’t vote tonight. We can absolutely say ‘no’ to the county,” Karavites said.
Baldwin cited liability concerns, claiming that leaning either way on the record could leave the borough susceptible to future lawsuits if an approved county project design – the two concepts currently on the table or a new one – leads to an accident.
Residents on hand shared a similar concern about the number of accidents at the intersection and posed to the council that if already adopted speed limit and vehicle weight limit laws were only enforced, the safety issues at the heart of this county effort would be mitigated, making the project itself unnecessary.
“I have a 13-year-old daughter whose bus its constantly tailgated,” said Stephen Scanapicco, a Hope Road resident. “I want that weight limit enforced. I want the speed limits on Hope and Hance enforced. I’d be happy to volunteer my property for Tinton Falls police to do it…This is a town issue, and the fact you’re not at least willing to voice your opinions on these county concepts is a big concern.”
Debra McNally urged the council to work with the county on more creative solutions, rather than bending to the will of two concepts she believes are connected to the development projects at nearby Fort Monmouth and Monmouth Mall, which she said would transform this residentially zoned area into a thoroughfare for motorists venturing to these locations.
McNally also pleaded for the council to look to the Tinton Falls master plan and zoning map to lead their opposition of the county’s proposal.
“Use your bible, if you will, to push your agenda,” McNally said. “This may be a county road but your residents live on that county road. Your zoning map designates this area as residential. So keep it that way. Your master plan calls for sidewalks and bike lanes. So put them in.”
“Sometimes the way to alleviate traffic safety concerns is to make the traffic go elsewhere,” she added.
Many concerned residents are expected to attend a July 12 meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders at 5 p.m. at the county Hall of Records in Freehold.
In the meantime council member Pak pledged to continue to communicate with the county on the matter.
Pak also stated the county plans to display any future concepts to residents at a borough council meeting before making a final decision, though Baldwin noted this is not required of the county.
Baldwin suggested that residents continue to monitor the borough’s website for forthcoming council meeting agendas to ensure they don’t miss a county presentation.
This article was first published in the July 12-19, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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