Cranbury holds informative panel for public

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During the Cranbury Township Committee meeting on Feb. 11, a session called “De-Mystifying Municipal Government” took place for residents who wanted to know more about local government.

Committeeman Mike Ferrante led the session that lasted for about 40 minutes. During that time frame, a range of topics were discussed along with a portion of time for questions and answers.

“I started on the committee last April. In the first seven to eight months, I noticed a lot of people coming forward and interacting with the municipal government for the first time,” Ferrante said. “I was just amazed at the knowledge gap on how municipal government works and how residents can engage with them. I noticed some frustration on both sides on how the whole thing worked. I thought this would [give] an ounce of prevention and give people a heads up.”

The range of topics included breaking down the forms of government, such as a borough, township or town. Topics went on to discuss different boards like planning and zoning, commissions such as the Shade Tree Commission and committees, for example the Traffic Committee. Then the discussion went to the topics of property tax assessment, which determines the market value of a piece of property, as well as the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

The OPRA is a law that expands the public’s right of access to government records, it sets up an administrative appeals process if access is denied, and defines what records are and are not “government records” and determine whether they should be accessible to the public.

“I think it is important to do this and open up this process. I think it is interesting how sometimes we don’t know what really is going on in government. I commend Mike (Ferrante) for doing this,” Committeeman Matt Scott said.

Several residents asked questions or commented during the question and answer portion of the evening session.

One of the residents who commented was David Nissen. He said he was pleased with the session. He spoke for a few minutes about the planning and zoning board to break down for residents just how important the boards are.

“It is fair to say that the planning and zoning boards have kept the size of Cranbury to under 4,000 and preserved the aesthetics of Cranbury. We have preserved a local community. The board anticipated the development pressure and preserved land,” he said.

There is not a set time table for when another session might come about.

Ferrante said a session like this will most likely be an infrequent thing he and the committee will do as time goes on.

“It is important to remember the Township Committee works for the people and are elected by the people,” he said. The committee should be transparent, accountable, easy to work with, and you should be able to get clear answers. I think it is very important for residents to know just how their municipal government works.”

The next Township Committee meeting will be held on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.

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