Bayonne is contemplating establishing a new department at City Hall and reorganizing other divisions under that. The City Council introduced an ordinance proposing the creation of the Department of Planning, Zoning and Development at its December meeting.
The ordinance would move the Division of Community Development, the Division of Planning and Zoning and the Municipal Housing Liaison and RCA Administrator from under the Power and Duties of the Mayor to the new department. According to the ordinance, the department would exercise the powers of the city as an authorized local public agency for purposes of any federal urban renewal or redevelopment program with the approval of the City Council.
The Department would be the sixth, next to the following: the Department of Administration, Department of Public Safety, Department of Municipal Services, Department of Public Works and Parks and the Department of Law. Just like those departments, there will be a director known as the Director of Department of Planning, Zoning and Development appointed by Mayor James Davis, and per the ordinance, they must be “qualified by education, training and experience in the process of the development of housing, commercial and industrial improvements within large urban areas.”
According to the ordinance, the Director will direct and supervise the functions necessary to assist and encourage the timely and proper improvement to real property within the city. These functions will include the acquisition of real property; the development of maps and standards governing the development of the city; the management, maintenance and operation of property owned by the city but not needed for public use; the upkeep and improvement of the city’s infrastructure, including the water and sewer systems; and the sale or lease of such property and the operation and administration of such incentive programs that may be established by the city to assist and encourage the development of property.
Division of Planning, Division of Zoning and Municipal Housing Liaison and RCA Administrator
The Division of Planning will be headed by the City Planner, Suzanne Mack, or an Assistant Planner. They have the authority to perform all the planning functions of the Division, and to supervise the administration of the planning and implementation of such community services, housing preservation and conservation and other services. The division will also supervise the administration of planning process, regulations and enforcement.
The Division of Zoning will be headed by Zoning Officer Tracey Tuohy. It has administrative oversight of the personnel employed to perform zoning and land use functions. The division has authority, through the Zoning Officer, to perform all of the functions and duties of the Division.
The Municipal Housing Liaison and RCA Administrator is part of the administrative mechanisms established for the execution of Bayonne’s responsibility to assist in the provision of affordable housing in accordance with the Fair Housing Act of 1985. Duties include handling things like affirmative marketing, household certification, affordability controls, resale and rental, processing requests from unit owners and enforcement.
“This is reallocating the planning and zoning, and it adds development, commercial development and planning, and zoning maintenance,” City Council President Gary La Pelusa told the Bayonne Community News. “What’s happening is, these are currently under the mayor right now. What’s going to happen is, they’re going to be moved to a new Department of Planning Zoning and Development.”
In addition to moving the the Division of Community Development, the Division of Planning and Zoning and the Municipal Housing Liaison and RCA Administrator into the new department, there would be the creation of two new divisions. That would be the Division of Development and Housing and the Division of Real Property and Infrastructure.
“The Department of Planning, Zoning and Development will do five things,” La Pelusa said. “It will cover planning, zoning, development and housing, the Municipal Housing Liaison, and real property infrastructure. Those things are going to be in this new department.”
Division of Development and Housing
The Division of Development and Housing will focus on development, tax abatements and housing stock.
The development functions will include responsibility for the preparation, formulation and implementation of an overall economic development plan for the city; coordinate all program activities concerning the economic development of the city; formulate plans for attracting new business and industry into the city so that jobs are made available to alleviate or prevent conditions of unemployment, underemployment and economic dislocation; and develop and administer all programs established by the city to encourage the utilization, construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of commercial and industrial property.
Other development functions included in the ordinance will involve public officials and private citizens in analyzing local economics, defining development goals, determining project opportunities and formulating and implementing development programs; provide such other assistance as is proper and necessary to permit and encourage the development of real property for commercial and industrial purposes in a manner that is consistent with general law and local ordinance; administer and direct urban conservation, rehabilitation and renewal activities of the city; exercise the powers of the city as an authorized local public agency for purposes of any federal urban renewal or redevelopment program approved by the City Council.
In addition, the ordinance grants the division to have other development powers to with the approval of the Director and the Business Administrator, appoint or contract with technical and professional advisers and assistance as may be required and approved for any federally or state-aided planning, renewal, development or redevelopment project, provided that they do not authorize the making of any contract in excess of $2,500 without the approval of the City Council; make recommendations, in conjunction with the Law Director and the Business Administrator, to standardize certain redevelopment agreement terminology and provisions and to propose any needed changes in state legislation; and coordinate and liaison, as needed, with the Mayor, the City Council, the Law Director and all city departments, in the redevelopment process.
Tax abatement and housing stock preservation functions
The division will also have tax abatement functions to maintain in one place and ensure the security of all of the records, papers and submissions that pertain to all tax abatement and exemption financial agreements; monitor and ensure compliance with the terms of all tax abatement and exemption financial agreements following approval by the City Council; along with the Finance Department, ensure the timely submission and payment of quarterly service charge bills with applicable arrearages and interest and ensure full compliance with the terms and conditions contained within the city’s tax abatement and exemption financial agreements by conducting periodic audits; and make recommendations, in conjunction with the Law Director and the Business Administrator, to standardize certain financial agreement terminology and provisions and to propose any needed changes in state legislation.
Other tax abatement functions will be to coordinate and liaison, as needed, with the Mayor, the City Council, the Law Director and all City departments, in the tax abatement and exemption process; act as a liaison with the Business Administrator and the City Council to review and analyze the financial ramifications of each tax abatement and exemption financial agreement; and assist in the preparation of the capital budget.
Lastly, the Division will yield housing stock preservation functions to advise the director on policies to ensure the preservation and creation of housing; and maintain in one place and ensure the security of all of the records, papers and submissions that pertain to short-term rental permits.
Division of Real Property and Infrastructure
One of the new Divisions in the Department of Planning, Zoning and Development is the the Division of Real Property and Infrastructure. The Division shall manage and oversee all real property and infrastructure owned, leased and controlled by the city.
According to the ordinance, the Division of Real Property and Infrastructure will focus on the acquisition, maintenance and disposition of all real property and infrastructure. In the division, there will also be a Long Term Control Plan and Resiliency Coordinator, responsible for the creation and implementation of the city’s Long Term Control Plan and the recommendations of the Resilient New Jersey Program.
The position is being created as part of the administrative mechanisms needed for the execution of Bayonne’s responsibility to assist in creation and implementation of the Long Term Control Plan pursuant to the United States Clean Water Act and United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Combined Sewer Overflows Control Policy, issued on April 11, 1994.
The Long Term Control Plan and Resiliency Coordinator’s powers and duties include to be responsible for the development, oversight and administration of the city’s compliance with the federal and state laws concerning the Combined Sewer Overflows Controls. They will also be responsible for addressing flooding prevention and addressing climate change.
“Under the ordinance, there will be a separate Long Term Control Plan and Resiliency Coordinator,” La Pelusa said. “The mayor still would have to choose somebody who’s going to oversee that.”
According to the ordinance, The Long Term Control Plan and Resiliency Coordinator will also work toward accomplishing the goals of the Long Term Control Plan. The goals include characterization, monitoring and modeling activities as the basis for selection and design of effective Combined Sewer Overflow controls; a public participation process that actively involves the affected public in the decision-making to select long-term Combined Sewer Overflow controls; consideration of sensitive areas as the highest priority for controlling overflows; and evaluation of alternatives that will enable the permittee, in consultation with the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting authority, Water Quality Standards authority and the public, to select Combined Sewer Overflow controls that will meet Clean Water Act requirements.
Meeting goals of the Long Term Control Plan
The Long Term Control Plan’s goals also seek cost and performance considerations to demonstrate the relationships among a comprehensive set of reasonable control alternatives; operational plan revisions to include agreed-upon long-term Combined Sewer Overflow controls; maximization of treatment at the existing Publicly Owned Treatment Works treatment plant for wet weather flows; an implementation schedule for Combined Sewer Overflow controls; and post-construction compliance monitoring program adequate to verify compliance with water quality-based Clean Water Act requirements and ascertain the effectiveness of Combined Sewer Overflow controls.
Lastly, the plan’s goals seek to provide clear levels of control that would be presumed to meet appropriate health and environmental objectives; provide sufficient flexibility to municipalities, especially those that are financially disadvantaged, to consider the site-specific nature of Combined Sewer Overflows and to determine the most cost-effective means of reducing pollutants and meeting Clean Water Act objectives and requirements; allow a phased approach for implementation of Combined Sewer Overflow controls considering a community’s financial capability; review and revise, as appropriate, water quality standards, and their implementation procedures when developing long-term Combined Sewer Overflow control plans to reflect the site-specific wet weather impacts of Combined Sewer Overflows.
Similarly, the coordinator will also seek to abide by the goals of Resilient New Jersey. The program administered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development aims to bring together resilience experts, local leaders, community organizations, residents and regional infrastructure entities to develop solutions to reduce flood risk and build resilience.
Preparing for the future, in terms of both resiliency and redevelopment
The ordinance will create a Long Term Control Plan and Resiliency Coordinator, just 10 years after Hurricane Sandy underscored the need to develop such preventative practices. The Coordinator will play a vital role as the city has already asked for help from the state in financing its estimated over $300 million cost of implementing the plan, as well as the potential implementation of the regional Long Term Control Plan with other Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority municipalities.
“The Long Term Control Plan is something we’re all a little concerned over. It’s something we know is going to cost some money and it’s something that we are mandated to do,” La Pelusa said. “So we need somebody who can pick the right companies and that can help us save money while we still get the job done. You’ve got to capture that storm water and release it over time. There’s issues in the Long Term Control Plan about sterilizing water before you let it out in the waterway. All these things have to be addressed in that plan.”
Additionally, the move to create the Department of Planning, Zoning and Development comes as the city has completed its absorption rate study of recent redevelopment in the city. The study came at the request of Davis with the pause on most residential redevelopment until that study could be completed.
In November, La Pelusa announced the study was completed and that the study showed the newly constructed units were being occupied. While a formal presentation on the data will be brought to the council in the future, the news means that all residential redevelopment will likely move forward full steam ahead as well as the industrial redevelopment of the Constable Hook area of Bayonne that the city has been moving forward with in the meantime.
Residential redevelopment moving full steam ahead again soon?
This seems further backed by the City Council considering the reintroduction of financial agreements for project approved amid the pause, which officials previously defended could not be stopped due to prior planning approvals. This included the project that seemingly prompted the pause and study and was singled out by Davis at the time, amid the campaign for the May municipal election, which was for an 18-story and a 6-story building across the street from each other on Avenue E as part of the next phase of the Silk Lofts redevelopment and the long-term tax abatements that would support it.
The ordinance also follows the City Council contemplating this move back in October. However, La Pelusa told BCN at the time that some details of the ordinance were still being worked out. Those have since been remedied obviously as the ordinance has now been introduced.
The proposed ordinance will be up for a public hearing and vote at the City Council’s next meeting on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. Read the full ordinance online at bayonnenj.org/_Content/pdf/ordinances/O-14-Chapter-2-Administration-Ordinance-INTRO.pdf or go to bayonnenj.org for more information.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.