Mahwah August 5, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 3 Olney Road closure expected to draw legal challenge by Frank J. McMahon A new ordinance adopted by the Mahwah Council will re-close Olney Road to through traffic, and is expected to lead to another lawsuit challenging the validity of the ordinance. The council adopted the new ordinance 4-1. Councilmen Samuel Alderisio, John Roth, Robert Hermansen and Councilwoman Lisa DiGiulio voted for its adoption and Councilman Allan Kidd voted against it. Council President John DaPuzzo and Councilman Roy Larson were absent from the public meeting. The new ordinance allows only responding emergency vehicles, and public utility and township vehicles performing utility and/or maintenance functions, from a 15 foot section of Olney Road near Stephens Lane. That section of road is between 13 and 16 feet wide. Several members of the public spoke both for and against the ordinance. Olney Road resident Gary Corrado claimed the road never should have been opened. He wants it closed to through traffic to preserve the character of the neighborhood. He said there is a safety issue there, and the traffic at night and on weekends, when motorists use Olney instead of Franklin Turnpike, is unbearable. “I feel like I am being assaulted by people who have no consideration for the people who live there. I just want my street back,” Corrado also told the council. “At the end of the day it is not about feet and inches. It’s about right and wrong and preserving the character of the neighborhood.” Other residents voiced strong opposition to the ordinance, claiming it is based on insufficient evidence of a safety issue. Opponents said the ordinance will lead to another lawsuit that will cost the taxpayers more money to defend. Joseph Sinopoli, who lives on Stephens Lane, claimed there have been no accidents on that section of the road for three years. He asked if the council would consider closing other roads with similar narrow characteristics as Olney Road. Hermansen advised Sinopoli there was a recent accident on that road, but Councilman Kidd said that accident happened, not at the narrow part of the road, but at the intersection with Miller Road when an Olney Road resident backed into another vehicle. Councilman Roth also informed Sinopoli that if issues are brought forward to the council regarding safety on other roads those matters would be considered on their own merits. Sinopoli asked why the council used an outside consulting firm to prepare a report on the safety of the road instead of using the police department’s data. Hermansen responded that an independent evaluation was needed to meet the requirements set forth by a Superior Court judge when the previous ordinance was invalidated in 2008. Sinopoli said there was a discrepancy regarding the width of the road between the ordinance and traffic consultant’s report. But Mahwah Township Attorney Andrew Fede advised Sinopoli and the council that the width used in the ordinance was derived from a deposition given by a representative of the New Jersey Department of Transportation during the previous litigation, and there was no need to amend the ordinance. Greg Orek of Beveridge Road complained that the road was being closed based on just a two-hour study by the traffic consultant. If this ordinance is challenged in court, Orek said the township’s police chief would have to testify against it. Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli had previously sent a letter to the council indicating his disagreement with the governing body’s decision to hire an independent traffic consultant. He criticized the short period of time during which that consultant conducted a traffic count on Olney Road and for estimating speeds on the road as opposed to recording actual speeds as his department had done over a two-day period in 2004, which he believes created a more comprehensive and accurate picture of the traffic volume and speeds on that road. “The money being spent is ridiculous,” Orek added. “If you need money, why waste it on Olney Road? To pursue this obsession is crazy. If the judge rules against it, you will have spent more money and most people in town want the road to be open.” Hermansen responded that the township could be sued either way, and the council could not make its decisions based on the fear of a lawsuit. Kidd argued, however, that when the court invalidated the previous ordinance and reopened the road, the judge found the township had acted in an arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable manner (continued on page 23) ���������������� Perennials ���������������������� ������ ���������������� �������������� ����������� ��������������� (Rudbekia Goldstrum) Black Eyed Susan (2 gal. - Reg. $995) ���������������������������������������� ������������������������������������� SALE $695 8-5-09 joan/janine RamapoNurseryColor3x2(8-5-09) 3 x 2”