PARSIPPANY — Wednesday Night, January 15, the Parsippany Zoning Board heard testimony regarding the controversial St. Christopher’s development proposal. That meeting was exactly what democracy looks like: hundreds of residents, making your voices heard on an issue important to our community.
The Zoning Board is an independent body in township government, similar to a court. All of its members are appointed exclusively by the Township Council, with no input from the Mayor, and once appointed, function independently, without accountability to the executive or legislative branches. It hears land use matters that, like the St. Christopher’s development, involve a change in zoning for a piece of property, such as a change from open space to residential development. Unfortunately, all of this is done, by design of the law, without input from elected officials.
In essence, our current system allows elected officials virtually no say over development projects that involve a zone change.
That is why I’m supporting an ordinance to change the way zoning decisions are made here in Parsippany. The Development Accountability Ordinance will allow any resident to appeal major Zoning Board decisions to the Township Council, creating a system of checks and balances over substantial zoning variances in our community. I am urging the Council to consider and pass this ordinance as soon as possible.
Residents of our community deserve the opportunity for your elected officials to hear your concerns, and be held directly accountable for the way land use is done in this township. I have not been shy in criticizing the sheer volume of zoning variances the Zoning Board grants, thereby encouraging overdevelopment in Parsippany. No longer can this Council shift the blame for development decisions to the Zoning Board, only to reappoint the same members year after year. This ordinance will put the final say squarely in the hands of the people we elect, where the responsibility should ultimately rest.