Page 4 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • June 24, 2009 Mahwah Introduction of Olney Road closing ordinance delayed by Frank J. McMahon The ordinance to limit through traffic on Olney Road in Mahwah, which was scheduled for introduction at the council’s last public meeting, was withdrawn from the agenda by Council President John DaPuzzo. The ordinance would limit through traffic on that road to emergency, utility, and municipal vehicles. DaPuzzo explained that the township had just received transcripts of the Sept. 24, 2008 court decision by Superior Court Judge Jonathan N. Harris that reopened the road to through traffic, and he wanted to provide time for the council to review that decision before proceeding with the ordinance. Olney Road extends between Miller Road and Stephens Lane. Proponents of the ordinance to close Olney to through traffic claim the road is unsafe because one small area is too narrow to allow two cars to pass one another. Neighbors claim the road is often used by motorists who want to travel to and from the A&P Shopping Center on Franklin Turnpike and avoid the traffic and lights on that road. Opponents of the ordinance, including Ronald Cabezas and Joseph and Ellen Sinopoli of Stephens Lane, and the 400 Mahwah residents who signed a petition asking the township council to keep the road open to through traffic, claim there are no safety issues with the road even though it narrows to about 16 feet in one area. They argue that, according to the Mahwah Police Department, there have been no accidents reported on the road nor have any summonses been issued to motorists on that road. DaPuzzo and Councilman Samuel Alderisio, who was the township’s police chief when the planning board considered the Cherry Hill Estates housing development on Stephens Lane in the late 1990s, maintain, however, that Olney Road was never supposed to have been opened to through traffic after the Cherry Ridge Estates homes were built. They say, however, that the intention of the planning board to keep it closed was inadvertently left out of the resolution confirming the planning board’s approval of that housing development. The debate and controversy about whether the road should be closed to through traffic other than emergency and municipal vehicles has been ongoing for several years. The road was closed to through traffic in the spring of 2006 after the New Jersey Department of Transportation approved a township ordinance that was adopted by the council to close the road. But that action was challenged in Superior Court by Cabezas, and Judge Harris ordered the road to be reopened last September. In his ruling, Harris said the anecdotal experience of neighbors in the vicinity of Olney Road, which he described as a lawfully approved roadway accepted by the municipality as an integral part of the local roadway infrastructure, was not sufficient to convince him that the road should be closed. “The actions of the defendant in adopting Ordinance 1556 (the ordinance to close Olney Road to through traffic) were palpably arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable,” Harris said in court. Harris added that it would not have been hard for the township to gather competent evidence about the safety of the road by sending its traffic safety officer out to complete a study of the road that was interrupted by damaged equipment, but the township rejected that opportunity. Harris acknowledged that the municipality was free to reject the recommendations of its professional (police) staff and chief of police, who oppose the closing of the road, but he said there has to be something tangible and objective to rely on in order to close the road other than subjective complaints by neighbors. He declared the township’s ordinance invalid and ordered the road reopened, but he left the door open for the township to revisit the ordinance. “This decision does not prohibit the municipality from reconsidering its decision in light of newly developed evidence, if any, regarding safety concerns,” Harris said, adding that it also does not prevent full traffic enforcement methods to protect the public along Olney Road and elsewhere in Mahwah. Based on that understanding, the council hired a traffic expert to study and analyze the current traffic on Olney Road. That expert recently advised the council that the road should be closed to through traffic, or the road should be widened, which the township has learned could cost up to $300,000. Mahwah Township Attorney Terry Bottinelli has said the traffic expert’s recommendation to close the road has been supported by the borough engineer and the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Therefore, the council asked Bottinelli to draw up the new ordinance to limit through traffic on this road. G.R. Goris     Located on the beautiful campus SINCE 1961 OVER 24,000 ALUMNI of Ramapo College of N.J. in Mahwah. Campers 7-17. Select one or more weeks June 22 thru Aug. 9. Overnight, Day Camp or Extended Day Camp. Major League Stars. College coaches. A/C dorm and campers lounge. Batting cages, indoor BASEBALL CAMPpool. All-you-can-eat meals. Free COACHES AND YOUTH video games. Daily instruction LEADERS and games. 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