Township of Weehawken belatedly passes a new ordinance making the Mayor a legal member of the Planning Board.

Weehawken, NJ --April 6th, 1999  In a series of rather unorthodox actions, the Township Council of Weehawken, in reaction to the suit filed by Friends of the Weehawken Waterfront, attempted to undo their wrongs by passing a new ordinance in 1999 concerning the composition of the Weehawken Planning Board.

The new ordinance allows the Mayor to serve as the Class One member of the planning board. Prior to this ordinance, only the Township Manager, James Marchetti, was permitted to serve as the Class One member of the Planning Board. There was no reason  to change the rule for class one membership except that the Mayor was accused of serving unlawfully.

The Council’s action amounts to a tacit admission that, prior to the passage of this ordinance, the Planning Board was conducting its hearings on all Planning Board matters unlawfully. This remarkable oversight calls into question all the decisions the Planning Board made when the Mayor was serving unlawfully on Weehawken Planning Board. This includes their approval of Roseland Properties Phase One application. (see text of lawsuit)

Once the Weehawken Town Council passed the ordinance, then the Weehawken Planning Board proceeded with its own script of unorthodox actions.

On April 6th, 1999, there was a Planning Board meeting. At the meeting, Planning Board attorney Thomas Dunn announced that a new Weehawken ordinance, changing the Class One membership rules, had been passed "sometime in 1999". In other words, on April 6th, 1999 Mayor Turner was finally serving lawfully as the Class One member of the planning board.

After Mr. Dunn made the announcement, the Planning Board members announced that they had re-read the minutes of all the previous meetings from July 1, 1998 to April 6,1999. Then they voted to re-approve the minutes.  This again is a tacit admission that their previous approvals were executed unlawfully. This time, in their eyes, the minutes were apparently approved lawfully. Interestingly, Planning Board members who were recused on some of the  meetings, voted on the minutes of the meetings from which they were recused.

The most appalling action happened next. The Planning Board then re-ratified their approval of the Roseland application for Phase One. This amounts to yet another tacit admission that the Planning Board’s prior approvals were not executed lawfully. How could the Planning Board be so sloppy and reckless?

The question remains: Can the Planning Board retroactively undue their unlawful actions? This will have to be decided in court. Although we are still waiting for a legal opinion, we feel the Planning Board's actions are like running a red light and then asking the police officer if they can backup and go through the light again when it’s green. Who would permit this?

If nothing else, Mayor Turner owes the citizens of Weehawken a big apology. How dare he pontificate at public hearings about "going by the book" and making sure the entire process is done legally? Meanwhile, the whole time he is lecturing, he himself is serving unlawfully.

The Planning Board has shown an absolute disregard for the town charter and our township ordinances. They have flouted their responsibility to the citizens of Weehawken and ignored their obligation to do a thorough application review process.

We await the opinion of the court about the legality of the Planning Board actions on April 6th, 1999. Stay tuned for details.

The Weehawken Planning Board consists of 9 members plus 2 alternates.

Class 1—one member only.
Must be the township manager unless the town changes the criteria by way of a new ordinance.

Class 2—one member only
Must be a township employee; may be a member of the Board of Education unless among the Class Four members there is a member of the Environmental Commission and the Board of Adjustments; in which case the member of the Environmental Commission must serve as the Class Two member. 

When the Roseland approvals were memorialized on Jan. 5, 1999, Mr. Barsa with listed as the Class Two member. He is a township employee and the member the Board of Education. However, because there were citizens in Class Four serving on the of the Board of Education and  the Board of Adjustment this disallowed Mr. Barsa from serving as a Class Two member.

Class 3—one member only
Must be a township elected official

Class 4—six members
Weehawken residents only, cannot be a township employee but can serve on various boards and commissions.

To read the actual state law on municipal planning boards, click on the link below:
Hyperlink to state statues Then choose 40:55D-23