Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Commercial Maintenance Code for Knowlton?

Commercial and industrial property maintenance regulations will be up for discussion at the next Township Committee meeting.

While the governing body earlier in August passed an ordinance that adds enforcement tools for properties in foreclosure and abandoned, the new regulations don’t address commercial and industrial properties that are in dilapidated—and sometimes dangerous—conditions.

The township has several ordinances on the books that deal with nuisances, but they frequently depend on the courts for enforcement, where extensive evidence is required.

“Every time these go before a judge, they want a strong case,” said township attorney Leslie Parikh. “Just because something is overgrown may not be enough.”

An ordinance with objective standards would give the township the ability to enforce its regulations, she added.

After examining regulations in neighboring municipalities, Parikh said an ordinance in Andover Township provided a good guide to what Knowlton could enact.

“I was able to find a couple ordinances I liked, especially with things like not having broken windows and other problems,” Parikh said.

Two buildings in particular that have drawn the ire of town officials bracket the township’s elementary school.

“Both properties of concern are on either side of a school.” Parikh said. “One of the buildings is boarded up and dilapidated, and that would be the very definition of an attractive nuisance to children.”

An attractive nuisance is a legal term generally applied to neglected structures, objects and properties that in addition to being an eyesore, draw the attention of people—particularly children—to explore, vandalize or otherwise trespass and pose a danger.

While derelict commercial properties had been the target of the proposed regulations, Mayor Adele Starrs asked if it was possible to expand it to include industrial properties. She also asked Parikh if it was permissible to apply the ordinance specifically only to commercial and industrial properties.

Parikh said that was not a problem because the rules would apply to all such properties, not specific ones.

Committee member James Mazza said neglected properties pose a fire hazard as well, because firefighters may not be aware of the structural integrity of a building.

In New Jersey, most commercial and industrial properties are required to keep fire departments up to date on the type of materials they keep in their buildings, particularly hazardous chemicals.

The proposal is expected to be discussed further at the Sept. 12nd committee meeting.

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