As a first order of business at tonight’s Planning Board Meeting, the board reviewed the capital improvement plan (CIP) for the years 2014-2019. Much of the discussion was about, for example, whether an inactive spreadsheet cell should have a $0 or a dash, whether the categories and amounts were clear, and other logistical and formatting matters. The public was not given access to this chart, so I can’t say much about most specifics concerning the budget itself.
There was, however, an overarching discussion about the total dollar amounts in the budget that give us some insight. For 2015, the CIP is over $9 million, which, according to chairman Kenneth Robertson, was “a little heavy”. Of this 2015 total, which is based on the suggestions of an engineer, $4.7 million are for road repairs. The total CIP budget goes down to around $7 million in each 2016, 2015, and 2018, and around $5 million in 2009. According to several board members, some of the money often isn’t used, and the implication is that part of the 2015 CIP budget may carry over. Vice Chair Ron Scott Bey suggested that “if the board is comfortable with what we think are more realistic numbers, we should put them there.” Despite this suggestion, the budget was eventually approved, member Gordon Fuller explaining that he thinks the board “should go with the engineering numbers.”
The other notable topic tonight, and this weekend for that matter, was the loud noises emanating from an increasing number of open air festivals around the city. As noted in Bernice Paglia’s recent blog post, which was in turn referenced during this meeting, the music emanating from a festival this weekend around Somerset and East Front Streets was heard all around the city. This noise could be heard “as far as the South Plainfield border!” exclaimed one board member. These sounds caused Chairman Kenneth Robertson to endure what he called “not a pleasant weekend.” Another member explained that police were called and were supposed to tell the festivals operators to turn the music down, adding “I don’t think it happened, because I still heard it the rest of the evening.”
A long conversation ensued. Some members, like Vice Chairman Ronald Scott Bey, laid out that there is a fundamental difference between noise caused by festivals that require permits and noise caused by individuals at their homes. Under this logic, an ordinance that controlled all noise levels would be overkill and would destroy individual citizens rights to police themselves based on the noise tolerances of their neighbors. This line of thinking eventually won out over a blanket noise ordinance, with the board agreeing that a letter to the city council about noise concerns should be drafted with input from everyone on the Planning Board. The City Council, they argue, is the more appropriate party to deal with noise coming from festivals and could legislate decibel limits as part of the permit agreement. Also check out Bernice’s post take on this meeting.