Lakewood Briefs

 

Mo Hill Says he is open to Zoning Changes as TR Council Puts off Votes on Houses of Worship till 2020

Toms River Council Vice President Maurice “Mo” Hill walked back his statements opposing zoning changes for houses of worship following an announcement by the Council’s President, George Wittmann, that no votes on the matter will be held this year, according to a report by the Patch. The move will push the issue, which has elicited much controversy, off until after new council members elected this coming November have taken their seats.

Toms River’s requirement for houses of worship to have a 10 acre plot have stood in the way of applications for shuls and mosques in the past.

According to documents revealed two weeks ago, under pressure from the federal Department of Justice (DOJ), town officials had agreed to pass laws that would loosen the requirements. At the same time the discussions with the DOJ were made public, a resolution to put some of the proposed changes in place made their way to a land use committee meeting and were promptly pulled by Mr. Wittmann who sits on the committee. Following the incident, both he and Mr. Hill voiced their unequivocal opposition to reducing the acreage requirements.

The proposal called for reducing the requirement to seven acres and two in the North Dover neighborhood which has seen a large influx of Orthodox families in recent years.

Now, Mr. Hill said that he would agree to certain adjustments if they would meet the final approval of the DOJ.

“I would never vote to change the 10-acre zoning to 7 acres unless the Justice Department said that was satisfactory,” he said in a statement send to the Patch. “I am not going to change the zoning to 7 acres and then have the DOJ come back and say you need to make it even lower. I think we got it right with 10 acres, but if making it 7 acres would prevent a lengthy and expensive court battle, the entire council would consider it, but not without legally binding assurances from the Attorney General. Two acres goes too far. If the DOJ insists upon that, let’s go to court and let a judge decide after we make our arguments.”

Mr. Wittmann reinforced his opposition to changes, but said the matter would be up to the next council, which will have at least three new members. Mr. WIttmann and Councilman Brian Kubiel are not seeking re-election and Mr. Hill is running for mayor. Several observers have claimed that the revelation of the proposal and records of discussions with the DOJ were a political stunt intended to hurt Mr. Hill’s campaign.

Local Congressmen Comment on Impeachment Prospects for President Trump

Congressman Andy Kim (D-NJ) threw his support behind impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, while Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) called for the matter to be dealt with honestly and deliberately.

In a statement released amid announcements that the House of Representatives would move forward with impeachment inquires, Rep. Kim harkened back to his time in the White House as a security advisor to the Obama administration.

“During my time working at the White House National Security Council, I sat in the Oval Office for a number of phone calls with world leaders. I never could have imagined the Commander in Chief on a call putting personal and political gain above our national security,” he said. “By urging the Ukrainian government to take action to influence our Democracy, Trump has violated that power and the trust of the American people. If the facts are corroborated, that violation, and my understanding of its implications, has led me to come to the conclusion that the President has committed an impeachable offense.”

Rep. Smith voted for legislation that called for the “whistleblower’s complaint” to be made public and urged both parties to work towards clarifying the fact.

“Today I voted for legislation urging that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community immediately transmit the August 12, 2019 whistleblower complaint to Congress, with the intent that Congress be given the opportunity to fairly evaluate the complaint in a bipartisan manner—consistent with statutes and processes to guard classified and sensitive information. The original Democrat resolution was partisan and counterproductive. We must have only one objective: providing the American people the truth.”

Ocean County Officials Urge Residents to Refrain from “Vaping”

The Ocean County Health Department urged residents to refrain from using “e-cigarettes” in light of a spate of deaths and lung illnesses related to “vaping” products.

As part of its response, the department is expanding its efforts to educate and spread awareness of the dangers of the practice.

“The Ocean County Health Department is strongly urging everyone, but especially teens, young adults and women who are pregnant to refrain from using e-cigarette products,” said Daniel E. Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator. “We are really concerned for our teens. From 2017 to 2018 there was a 78 percent increase among high school students using e-cigarette products and a 48 percent jump by middle school students. That’s a large number of young people who need to be made aware of these serious health risks from vaping – it really could save their life.”

National health officials have yet to identify the cause of the illnesses being reported. As such, OCHD recommends not using any e-cigarettes until more clarity is gained regarding the apparent risks.

A ban has been proposed by State Senate President Steven Sweeny (D-Gloucester), but has yet to be passed into law.

Assemblyman Dancer Proposes Exempting Busses from Toll Hikes

As the New York and New Jersey Port Authority announced toll hikes for crossing between the two states, Assemblyman Ron Dancer introduced a resolution that would exempt some buses and minibuses from paying higher rates.

“People shouldn’t have to work more to afford going to work,” said Assemblyman Dancer (R-Ocean). “It is unconscionable that the Port Authority would create its highest toll increases for the very people who are most likely unable to afford the increases and completely depend on the affordability of bus service.”

According to the Assemblyman’s statement, a high percentage of regular bus commuters are low-income earners.

According to the plans announced by the Port Authority, by 2026, the off-peak E-ZPass toll rate for bridges and tunnels is scheduled to reach $16.00 per vehicle, while mini buses will increase to $21.00.