Gipper | Will She Recuse Herself? & Stick a Fork in It

Oh, there is so much to wonder about action and non-action at Highlands Borough Council meetings and tonight’s meeting is no different.

There are some great things happening at the meeting, primarily that the Highlands First Aid Squad is being honored, appreciated and thanked for its 90 years of volunteer service, and Mayor Broullon is naming Oct. 17 Highlands First Aid Day in the borough.

That’s happening a little late to actually be recognized on the specific day since this meeting is three days after Oct. 17, but nice nonetheless for the record and as a show of appreciation for these hardworking volunteers.

The agenda for tonight’s meeting doesn’t include authorization for purchase of a new ambulance which the squad has requested, though two needed police cars are up for approval. Hopefully, there just needs to be more study of the sophisticated standards for a new ambulance that is holding up that purchase.

Also on the agenda is final approval for the naming of a private road that’s apparently going in the Redevelopment area. A private road planned for Lot 41, 13.01, 95-99 Bay Avenue in the Redevelopment Area will be named Gipper Way honoring the late William “Gipper” O’Neil, a great native of the borough, part of a terrific family that has included at least one former Mayor, his son, Rick, and just a great family man who loved his town.

The developer of the property Chia, Inc. of Red Bank, is requesting the name to honor Gipper. The property is on the corner of Bay Avenue and Spring St. but I haven’t seen plans for where the road is actually going..or why there needs to be a road at all. Must be part of the redevelopment plan.

Also on the agenda tonight are a couple of shared agreements with Atlantic Highlands, one to help out the neighboring town for a short time with a code enforcement officer, the other a long time continuing agreement for Highlands court to be held in Atlantic Highlands.

The Council hits a milestone with the issuance of its 200th resolution for the year…actually resolution 201 is also on the agenda.

But the nine page resolution, 199, plus additions to give more background explaining the reason for the resolution, is really most interesting. It is a resolution authorizing Philips, Preiss, Grygiel, Leheny and Hughes, the planners who have been working on the preliminary studies, to prepare one or more plans for all or a portion of the Redevelopment area as spelled out. It notes there are 155 different properties in the Redevelopment Area, but only 120 really meet the criteria for being so destitute, dilapidated, or broken down in some way that they really qualify. However, the other 35 of the 155 in the area should be included in the area, the planners said, and the resolution stresses once more it is all a non-condemenation redevelopment, because it makes sense. To separate out properties here and there along Bay Avenue would kind of defeat the identification as an area.

It will be interesting to see whether the Mayor votes on the resolution, or recuses herself because she owns her business within the redevelopment area, though it is not one that meets the criteria for qualifying. Like several other business in the area, her store is neat, has parking, looks great. But it is still property within and area that is designed to improve the business district, hence improve local businesses. She recused herself for the vote at the Land Use Board meeting where they made the recommendation for the Area, but nonetheless kind of ran this week’s public hearing, keeping it moving, holding the mike for people to talk, telling people when things were off topic, all of which kind of sounds like being involved. Most towns, when an elected official has any possible conflict of interest, have an attorney that recommends that person leave the meeting until action is complete.

It will also be interesting to see whether the borough is setting itself up for yet another lawsuit. All the official papers say everyone was given an opportunity to be heard. Of course that doesn’t come anywhere near to being close, what with the meeting held in a building that is not handicapped accessible and holding meetings without offering virtual opportunities for all people to be heard, even though the borough has proven during the Covid times it has the capabilities.


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