Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Council behavior, development top Ward 2 Town Hall

The conversion of the former Red Cross building into
apartments and stores is among many projects under way.

City Council behavior and development were among the many issues raised at Wednesday's Ward 2 Town Hall at Cook School.

Resident Laura Kayser was among the first speakers and pointedly referred to a recent meeting where the Council president failed to shut down a speaker's inappropriate and inflammatory remarks about another Councilor.

Kayser said flatly that televised meetings of the Council were embarrassing to Plainfield and called on members to conduct their business and deliberations with civility.

With regard to "inflammatory, threatening and abusive langugage", she asserted the chair's right -- and responsibility -- to shut such language down promptly. Besides Robert's Rules of Order, Kayser cited several court rulings that aver that governmental bodies have a compelling interest in limiting abusive language during public comment.

Referring to the incident, Council President Rivers said she stopped the commenter once she realized where his comments were going. Councilor Williams begged to differ and pointed out that the comments went uninterrupted for some time. (A review shows the incident ran about two minutes before the man was cut off, one of the advantages of having taped meetings to refer to.)

Resident Tony Rucker also commented on the civility issue, noting that Councilors can be shown rolling their eyes and waving their arms on occasion, behavior he considered unseemly and damaging to the perception of the Council.

Many of the other speakers took up various aspects of development, especially -- though not exclusively -- along South Avenue.

Concerns were expressed about whether rents might be too high, whether the coveted "Millenials" were actually moving in, and the failure of PILOTs to cover costs of any impact on the schools.

Council President Rivers reaffirmed her objection to a PILOT for the South Avenue Gateway project, citing the term (30 years) as too long, that the schools got no money in the deal, and lack of a guarantee renters would be childless. She did say, however, that she would be willing to take another look at the project.

Councilor Storch pointed out that there was developer interest in other areas as well as South Avenue, specifically citing a proposal being developed for housing on South Second Street between Grant and Plainfield Avenues (known to many as the former Oliver Brown property). Councilor Rivers noted that the proposal also included a manufacturing facility, which would mean jobs -- something that purely residential developments fail to deliver.

It became clear that both the administration and the Council could do a better job in explaining the pluses and minuses of PILOTs, the purpose of which is not readily discernible to the lay public, which makes them prey to being swayed by demagoguery and special pleading on the issue.

Among the many other topics brought up by the forty or so attendees were the large number of vacant properties and their appearance, illegal apartment conversions and rooming houses, parking scarcity in certain neighborhoods, flood insurance and flood maps, litter, and speeding along certain streets.

The remaining two Town Halls are set for next week, both to run from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. They are --

  • Monday, October 26 - Ward 1 - Barlow School, East Front and Farragut Road

  • CHANGED: Ward 3 is changed to THURSDAY, November 12, at Hubbard School (as of 2:45 PM today) and NOT Tuesday, October 27 at Cedarbrook School.
Make plans to attend if you have questions or concerns you want to share with your elected representatives.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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