Holmdel officials take action to live-stream planning, zoning meetings

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HOLMDEL – Residents may soon be able to watch meetings of the Holmdel Planning Board and the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment from the comfort of their homes.

During a Township Committee meeting on Feb. 23, members of the governing body voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance that provides for live-streaming of those two municipal boards.

Mayor Greg Buontempo, Deputy Mayor Cathy Weber, Committeeman Tom Critelli, Committeeman Prakash Santhana and Committeeman D.J. Luccarelli voted “yes” on a motion to adopt the ordinance.

According to the ordinance, in 2020, the Township Committee adopted an ordinance that provides for the video recording and live streaming of its public meetings.

“In order to foster further transparency, the Township Committee seeks to adopt the same video recording and live-streaming requirements for public meetings of the Planning Board and zoning board,” the ordinance states.

The committee’s action on Feb. 23 extended the video recording and live-streaming regulations that were already applicable to the Township Committee to public meetings of the Planning Board and the zoning board.

There were no comments from the members of the Township Committee or the public regarding the adoption of the ordinance.

In other business, the committee members adopted an ordinance that prohibits the intentional release of balloons in Holmdel.

Municipal officials said they found “that the intentional release of balloons is injurious to the health, safety and welfare due to its negative impact upon the environment” and it seeks to prohibit this practice.

The legislation states it is being adopted “to protect the environment, particularly the wildlife, and the health, safety and well-being of persons and property by prohibiting the release of helium balloons into the atmosphere, including latex and mylar, as it has been determined that the release of balloons inflated with lighter-than-air gases pose a danger and nuisance to the environment, particularly to wildlife and marine animals so as to constitute a public nuisance and may pose a threat to the safety of its inhabitants and their property.”

Moving forward, no one in Holmdel may “intentionally release, organize the release, or intentionally cause to be released balloons inflated with helium or any other gas that is lighter than air within the township, except for balloons released on behalf of a governmental agency or pursuant to a governmental contract for scientific or meteorological purposes, hot air balloons that are recovered after launching, and balloons released indoors.”

A person found to be in violation of the ordinance could be punished by a fine not to exceed $500.

And, Acting Chief Financial Officer Bill Antonides reported that the Fiscal Year 2022 budget that has been proposed by Gov. Phil Murphy indicates Holmdel’s state aid for the year will be $1.98 million, which Antonides said represents 7.9% of the municipal budget. Murphy’s proposed budget is subject to review and approval by the state Legislature.

During public comment, resident Jay Yannello referred to a preliminary report that has been presented to municipal officials and member of the public by the Holmdel Ad Hoc Committee on Human Relations.

The ad hoc committee was formed by municipal officials in 2020 after public comments were made about a blue line that was painted on Crawfords Corner Road in front of police headquarters in 2016 as a show of support for law enforcement personnel.

The members of the ad hoc committee sought to address the public’s concerns about racism and discrimination, according to the preliminary report

The preliminary report is under review by municipal officials and the ad hoc committee’s final report is expected to be issued at a future date.

“We are not an inherently racist town,” Yannello said. “We were called that by people who were calling in (to Township Committee meetings) when this issue was being discussed. I didn’t like that.”

Yannello said the ad hoc committee’s preliminary report is “reasonable … a good starting point” from which to address certain issues that have been identified in the community.