Highlands Borough Hall Bond Issue

HIGHLANDS – The Mayor and Council postponed the second reading and public hearing on the proposed $10 million bond authorization for the planned Borough Hall construction, promising a public hearing with more information prior to the March 3 regularly scheduled meeting of the governing body. As Wednesday’s meeting of the governing body, Mayor Carolyn Broullon indicated “a lot of people want to talk about it again” although there had been a meeting in September 2019. She indicated not a lot has changed since then and things have been delayed both because of a change in the governing body and “our dear friend Covid.” The mayor said the borough administrator, Michael Muscillo, who was not present for the meeting, is setting a date before March 3 so the public will have an opportunity to hear reports from the financial officer, architect and attorney and the public will then have an opportunity to ask questions. That date will be advertised and it is anticipated the public hearing on the proposed bond ordinance could then be acted upon at the regular March 3 meeting. The governing body did approve by a majority vote an ordinance which now permits retail or wholesale establishments, businesses persons or entities selling or offering for sale marijuana or marijuana products for both medicinal and recreational use. The governing body had introduced the proposed code last month based on approval by 76 per cent of Highlands voters who responded to the 2020 statewide ballot question the legalization of cannabis and allowing for its cultivation, processing and sale. Council-member Linda Mazzola opposed the ordinance said that while the state has legalized marijuana the borough’s business district is also residential and she is concerned cannabis stores and businesses could be established adjacent to private homes. The councilwoman said she could just not face a family with children if she approved such a facility to be near their homes, reiterating, “I just can’t.” Councilwoman Jo-Ann Olszewski, who approved the new code permitting cannabis businesses, likened it to liquor stores which the borough supports and which are in the same type of neighborhood and possibly even adjacent to residences. During the public portion at the end of the meeting several out of town residences praised the governing body for their actions and approval of the code permitting both recreational and medicinal distribution and use of cannibas. In response to a question from resident Kim Skorka each of the five members of the governing body indicated he or she have no plans to have any connections or businesses with any proposed business involving cannabis, and no one has heard from any company requesting their business to come into the borough. In response to questions from Joseph Nardone, Council indicated questions on the number of dispensaries would be referred to the land use board whenever the need arose. The governing body took no action on a statement from MS Skorka that with Sea Streak becoming mor active, continuing traffic problems at the intersection of Shore Drive and Waterwitch Avenue continue to be a concern and should be addressed, a matter which has been before the governing body in the past. Her statements came in the wake of Council unanimously approving stop signs for Second St. at its intersection with Valley St., when no one objected during the public hearing. Terming his concerns for beryllium “ridiculous” Mayor Broullon referred out-of-area resident Jim Smith to the borough engineer, Ben Matlack, who said testing has been done on dredge soils, which have been removed from the borough owned land adjacent to Captain’s Cove Marina but have not yet been returned from the testing center. The engineer said samples were taken last week and had been held up a little bit but results should be returned any day or at least in time for a report at the March 3 meeting. Smith also reiterated former Councilman Chris Francy’s concerns that the governing body is giving too much power and authority to the mayor when the borough is governed under the five members of council having equal powers.


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