Firm’s effort on sex shop ordinance deemed lacking

Howell officials want
to restrict businesses
to one location in town

Staff Writer

Firm’s effort on sex shop
ordinance deemed lacking
Howell officials want
to restrict businesses
to one location in town
Staff Writer

HOWELL — Despite working for more than a year to develop a plan to address sexually oriented businesses in the municipality, the Township Council pulled a discussion of a possible zoning ordinance from its July 6 workshop agenda.

Officials declined to discuss the matter because they were not happy with the work product submitted to them by the planning firm of Kessler and Associates, which had been commissioned to develop a specific ordinance addressing sexually oriented businesses.

"What did we pay for? What did we get here?" asked Councilman Joseph DiBella, referring to 11 pages of correspondence from Kessler that DiBella said was "basically a list of what other towns have done."

Part of Kessler and Associates’ work was a recommendation that sexually oriented businesses be a conditional use to be located in the (highway development) HD-2 zone. That would place such businesses anywhere along Route 33, an area that Mayor Timothy J. Konopka and members of the council want to see developed with commercial and light industrial ratables.

All agreed that sexually oriented businesses are not part of the vision the council has for the future development of Howell.

"I don’t believe it’s a good use for Route 33," DiBella said to the agreement of the other council members.

However, DiBella did say he favored locating any future sexually oriented businesses near Howell’s border with Wall Township. One such establishment already operates on Route 34 in Wall Township near the Howell border.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Schomaker was absent from the July 6 meeting.

To the continued agreement of the rest of the governing body, DiBella said he believed Kessler and Associates would be looking at a map of Howell and coming up with specific sites for locating adult-oriented establishments.

At the present time there are several such businesses on Howell’s Route 9 corridor.

All of the council members were displeased with the work turned in by the planning firm and agreed with DiBella’s observation that anyone surfing the Internet could have come up with thesame information Kessler and Associates submitted.

The mayor and council members said they had hired Kessler and Associates to develop an ordinance that would establish a district or zone to which sexually oriented businesses could be restricted.

At present, there is no law that governs the location of these types of businesses and anyone who wants to open such a business can essentially do so at any commercial location in Howell.

The council members said they had been told that Kessler and Associates had a particular expertise in this area because the firm had represented merchants looking to establish these types of businesses in other communities.

"We were told we were hiring the one who represented the bad guys so we’d have the blueprint for how to get around it," DiBella said.

Township Manager Bruce Davis affirmed to the council members that they and he had made it clear to Kessler and Associates that "specificity was the intent of the council."

"He [Kessler] was told several times we wanted specific locations and even mentioned the Wall [Township] border," Davis said.

Mayor Timothy J. Konopka told Davis to tell Kessler his firm should "go back to the drawing board."

"They need to develop a better work product," said the mayor who, with the unanimous assent of the rest of the council, told Jeffrey Filiatreault, the township’s chief financial officer, to withhold payment to Kessler and Associates until further notice.

Councilman Juan Malave said he had heard on a New Jersey radio station that there were a few towns in the state that had developed successful and satisfactory ordinances to restrict sexually oriented businesses to one particular area of town. Malave suggested that the station be contacted to find out the names of those towns.

The ordinance which was included on the July 6 workshop agenda for a July 20 introduction and an Aug. 17 public hearing and adoption was pulled from the agenda due to the mayor’s and council members’ dissatisfaction with the planning firm’s submission.