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Jan 31, 2017

Colts Neck News Notes

By Nicholas Deckmejian

Bail Reform First Topic of New Year

The Colts Neck Township Committee meeting on January 11 was the first meeting for the newly organized committee, with Russell Macnow serving as mayor and JP Bartolomeo as deputy mayor. There remained an empty seat, as the committee was still in the process of finding someone to replace Committeeman Michael Fitzgerald. Mayor Macnow began his first meeting of the year by thanking everyone who ventured out to the reorganization meeting despite the snowstorm.

The meeting began with a discussion about the recent Criminal Justice Reform Act. The new legislation involves a bail reform that would ultimately be a heavy burden on police departments and result in an “absurd” increase in man hours.  Mayor Macnow said he’s usually not a fan of resolutions, but “occasionally one comes along that catches my eye.” That resolution would be a draft, proposed by Howell, claiming the bail reform to be an unfunded mandate. Colts Neck’s township committee agreed with Howell’s stance, and voted in support of filing a complaint with New Jersey Council on Local Mandates.

Economic Development Committee Update

While going through the motions of amending a recent ordinance for the Economic Development Committee, which cleared language to restrict membership to Colts Neck residents, Deputy Mayor Bartolomeo brought up a potential problem with how the committee will be formed. He’s heard concerns that the only people applying were members of the Colts Neck Business Association (CNBA), and found it necessary to ask for a way to encourage non-CNBA members to apply. The solution was to limit the amount of seats for CNBA members. Along with the guaranteed seat to the CNBA president, the association will only be able to have one additional member sit on the committee.

Donation Bins

At the January 11 meeting, the township committee had a first reading of an ordinance amending the municipal code for donation bins. The goal is to limit the number of donation bins around town and exercise some measure of control. The township isn’t looking to falter the success of local charities, but rather, the ordinance comes from concerns that commercial enterprises are soliciting donations of clothing and other items under the assumption of charity, but may actually be selling them for profit. This new ordinance will help the town limit donation bins to only charities registered with the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey that have received a permit from the township.

Planning Board Approves Jon  and Tracey Stewart’s Project

During Deputy Mayor Bartolomeo’s report, he discussed his experience at the planning board meeting that involved Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, where a concern was addressed. After the vote on the project – an animal sanctuary on the 45-acre Hockhockson Farm on Route 537 that Jon and wife Tracey Stewart plan to open in 2018 – had unanimously passed, Mr. Bartolomeo asked Mr. Stewart why he circumvented the township and went to the county first. “Jon Stewart stood up,” said the deputy mayor, “and I have to say he’s a gentleman. He couldn’t have been more sympathetic, more empathetic, and more forthcoming.” Mr. Bartolomeo praised Mr. Stewart’s thoroughness, saying, “They bent over backwards and did everything they could to comply, all the way down to bringing in samples of the stone dust on their driveway.”

The deputy mayor felt that Jon Stewart’s answer was sincere, saying that he and his wife were just trying to make a dream a reality, and, coming from the city, they were naïve on proper procedures, so they defaulted to the guidance of their lawyers.  Mr. Bartolomeo said that of all the answers he could have given, he was glad Mr. Stewart gave the one that he did. The plan must still be approved by the Monmouth County Planning Board and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Tracey Stewart, a best-selling author and animal activist, said she envisions about 150 visitors a day to the farm, where they can learn about sustainable agriculture. There will be an estimated 20 farmhands tending to cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, and chickens – all rescued farm animals. The Stewarts would like local schools to visit to learn about the animals and rescued livestock. They plan to build a visitor’s center, a greenhouse, a 60-car parking lot, and a turf field for overflow parking. They were approved to host twice-monthly nighttime educational programs for 50-100 people, and no more than six special events or fundraisers for 200-250 guests each year.

Lock Your Cars!

At the January 11 township committee meeting, Mayor Macnow took some time to comment on the recent burglaries around town. Car break-ins have always been an issue in Colts Neck, and the mayor urged residents to not leave keys in their cars and to make sure their vehicles are locked. He also encouraged people to call the police if they feel suspicious about a vehicle lurking on their block – not after a few hours or the next day, but while the car is still there.