In a rare split vote, the Knowlton Township Committee moved to combine the Planning Board with the Zoning Board of Adjustment to form a Township Land Use Board.
The vote was 3-1, with Mayor Frank Van Horn voting to keep the status quo.
“Personally, I would rather keep the two boards and have as many interested people involved as we can,” Van Horn said. He acknowledged the difficulty recruiting people to the boards. Nonetheless, he said he felt that the more people that were involved, the better.
“I like the idea of the two boards because of the public participation,” Van Horn said.
Committee member James Mazza, who voted for the measure, although he said he still had mixed feelings about the combination but pointed out that the ordinance to make the change calls for it to be reviewed six months after implementation.
“We still have the option to reverse it in six months, so. I think it’s worth a try,” Mazza said. He added that the combined board could draw the best people from both the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment.
Both boards have nine members and several alternates, and both have varying degrees of
participation by their members, an issue Van Horn said should be taken into consideration when distilling the 18 members of the current two boards into nine seats on the new Land Use Board.
“I wouldn’t want to pick arbitrarily,” Van Horn said, agreeing past participation should have a bearing on the choices. “How many people aren’t even interested anymore?”
Knowlton joins a growing list of small- and medium-sized municipalities that have combined both boards.
While the responsibilities of both boards seem similar—basically overseeing how stuff gets
built—they do differ in several important ways.
A planning board’s primary responsibilities include reviewing applications for construction—from decks to major subdivisions—that conform to the existing master plan. And
the planning board is also responsible for creating and maintaining that master plan. The
master plan is the document that essentially is the blueprint for how building and development takes place in a municipality.
Most towns have master plans that reach back decades and are revised from time to time by the planning board to reflect changes in the law, population and other factors.
If your plans do not conform the prevailing master plan and zoning regulations, you would take your case to the board of adjustment. If you wanted to build a mega-warehouse on land zoned for farming, you would bring your plans to the zoning board (or board of adjustment; the two terms are for the same thing) to request a zoning change.
The new Land Use Board would take on all those responsibilities.
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.
Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.
Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.
Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.