September 16, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 5 Mahwah Olney Road closed; issue could be decided in court by Frank J. McMahon The bollards are back up on Olney Road in Mahwah, and will prevent through traffic on that road once again. This summer, the Mahwah Township Council adopted an ordinance authorizing the closing of the road to through traffic. During the first week of September, the flexible bollards were installed following the mandatory waiting period for the approval or veto of the ordinance by the mayor, and the publication of a notice to the public. Mayor Richard Martel did not act on the new ordinance, either to approve it or to veto it, preferring instead to let the council decide whether to close the road and to ultimately let the matter be resolved in court. Martel confirmed that he did not sign the ordinance, but he also said if he had vetoed it, he believed that veto would have been overridden by the council. He did not want to subject the council to that situation and give the impression that he was having a problem with the governing body. “By not signing it, I leave it in the hands of the council,” he said. “I feel it is a council issue, and the mayor should not get involved. I understand the concerns on both sides. I believe it will go to court, so let the court decide. It cost the township $21,000 the last time it went to court, and I hate to see us spend that money, but to reach closure on this issue we need a court decision.” Martel explained, however, that he cannot prevent anyone from filing a lawsuit, and the township cannot let the fear of a lawsuit affect the actions of the council. Olney Road extends from north to south between Miller Road and Stephens Lane. Proponents of the ordinance to close the road to through traffic claim that it is unsafe because one 15-foot section of the road is too narrow to allow two cars to pass one another. Opponents of the ordinance, including the township’s police chief, claim there have been no safety issues with the road, even though it narrows to between 13.7 and 14.7 feet, according to the ordinance. The new ordinance excludes all vehicles other than emergency vehicles responding to an emergency, and public utility and township vehicles performing utility and/or maintenance functions, from a 15-foot section of Olney Road near Stephens Lane. The ordinance effectively prevents through traffic on that road. Those who want the road closed claim it should never have been opened after the Cherry Ridge Estates development was built on Stephens Lane. Those residents say they want to preserve the character of the neighborhood. Others claim there is insufficient evidence of a safety issue on that road and believe the ordinance will lead to another lawsuit that will cost township taxpayers more money to defend. They also claim there are other township roads that are just as narrow that remain open to through traffic. Joseph Sinopoli, who lives on Stephens Lane, wants the road open to through traffic. He claims there have been no accidents on that section of the road for three years. He has also criticized the council for using an outside traffic consulting firm to prepare a report on the safety of the road instead of using the police department’s data, which did not support the closing of the road. He points out that Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli had previously sent a letter to the township council indicating his disagreement with the governing body’s decision to hire an independent traffic consultant. Olney Road resident Gary Corrado favors the ordinance to preserve the character of his neighborhood. He claims there is a definite safety issue on that road that is caused by motorists who use the road at night and on weekends rather than Franklin Turnpike. In September 2008, Superior Court Judge Jonathan N. Harris, who is now an Appellate Court judge, issued a ruling in a lawsuit filed against the township by Stephens Lane resident Ronald Cabezas. That decision effectively reopened the road to through traffic. However, in his ruling, Harris said his decision did not prohibit the municipality from reconsidering the ordinance in light of any newly developed evidence regarding safety concerns. The council has indicated that it has that evidence in the report from Judd Rocciola, the traffic engineer who conducted a study on that road and recommended closing the road to through traffic, or widening it, which would cost an estimated $172,000 to $237,000. HARDING WINE&SPIRIT Make today the day you come into our store and finally try... Liberty Creek or... 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