Planning Board must be strong for Marlboro residents

I am a recent resident of Marlboro with no political motivation or affiliations. When I moved my family to Marlboro three years ago I was unaware of the political scandals that were about to unfold and shocked to learn the extent that township officials accepted bribes and made illegal deals to permit overdevelopment in Marlboro. Now, residents are forced to pay for the misconduct of these corrupt politicians and developers.

I voted for Mayor Robert Kleinberg and the current administration on the promise of correcting the sins of the past administration. Based on my recent experiences with the Marlboro Planning Board, I can see this isn’t happening.

I have over 10 years of experience in planning, zoning and seven years as an elected official interpreting and implementing public policy for the township of Green Brook.

I attended Marlboro Planning Board meetings for five months on one application.

The applicant, Monmouth Worship Center, is a church in the Marlboro community that is constrained by its exploding rate of growth and the inadequate size of its current facility and parking lot. The subject property, which was subdivided for the application, is a 13-acre lot on Vanderburg Road that will support a considerably larger building.

Throughout the proceedings, residents were not permitted to speak or cross examine any witnesses until the very end of the meeting. At that time, residents made it clear to the board and the applicant the problem is the size of the building and the parking lot. The building is just too big for the subject property and thus, the applicant required variances.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to prove a hardship exists (not self-created) that justifies the need for a variance. They must show they’ve done everything possible to conform to the ordinances. It is the Planning Board’s responsibility as a quasi-judicial body to weigh the evidence and determine the justification for variances from the township ordinances.

The Planning Board acted improperly, ignored the residents and failed to execute its responsibilities in the following ways:

+ They failed to ask the applicant why they need a building so large that it could not conform to the town’s ordinances.

+ The board changed their interpretation of the town’s parking ordinance to enable the application to meet the required number of parking spaces

+ The board attorney made inappropriate remarks to the public and to the board and appeared, at times, to be testifying on behalf of the applicant.

+ The chairman publicly expressed disdain for residents who came out to voice opposition to overdevelopment of the Vanderburg Road lot.

Furthermore, the board may have violated the Open Public Meetings Act by permitting the applicant to introduce traffic testimony that was not shared with the public. An investigation into these allegations should be made immediately and if they are true, appropriate actions should be taken to remove the attorney and chairman.

The actions of Planning Board Chair-man Peter Bellone and attorney Dennis Collins raise some serious questions of integrity. It appeared to many of us that this application was going to be “pushed through” with little justification for the relief (variances) being sought by the applicant.

More than ever, Marlboro needs a strong administration, qualified experts and volunteers with experience in land use and planning. We still have significant development that will continue to impact this town and its residents and we can ill afford public policy that is resident unfriendly and invites litigation due to inadequate representation.

The members of the Planning Board should be thanked for their willingness to serve the public, but they are also residents of this town and should know that it’s critical for the good of this town that we raise the bar on quality. The Planning Board chairman, members of the board, the attorney and the board’s experts are very, very weak and this is a weakness this town cannot afford.

Finally, I went to the July 5 Planning Board meeting to voice my concerns and ask each and every board member to reconsider their appointment and continued tenure.

I was not permitted to speak as Chairman Bellone has conveniently eliminated “Citizens Voice” which the Town-ship Council and the various boards and committees adopted to allow the public to express its views and concerns. Mr. Bellone, if you’ve done nothing wrong, then what are you hiding and what are you afraid of? Let the people speak.

Steven S. Pitchon