ATL. HIGHLANDS – The Mayor and Council will hold their next meeting Jan. 26 on ZOOM,, and will reconsider at that time whether they will continue to use virtual meetings for health reasons or create another alternative, either hybrid meetings or meetings in a larger facility to accommodate crowds with more space between them.
While Councilwoman Lori Hohenleitner received an affirmative to her question if that would also include all municipal committee meetings this month, whether that includes the Planning Board was not specifically identified.
The Planning Board in person meeting last week came under heavy discussion at last night’s council meeting, with resident Mark Fisher pointing how “communication was terrible!” on the planning board’s decision to go against the mayor and council decision to hold all meetings virtual. The Board had scheduled a reorganization meeting which it held at borough hall, as well as a business meeting, which they then postponed without taking any action. That meeting included among other actions an application for a Starbuck’s coffee shop at Route 36, the former site of a fast food restaurant.
Councilman Jon Crowley also termed the planning board action as something that made him “irate,” and questioned why the planning board did not take health issues into consideration when making their decision to meet in person. The Mayor and Council could make the change within 48 hours, he said, the planners had a week. “The planning board is quasi-judicial, not quasi-governmental,” Crowley said, adding, “this is wrong, and it makes me really mad.”
Councilman Brian Dougherty, the newest councilmember and a long time member of the planning board, who did attend the planners’ meeting in person, said he was not involved in the decision making for that meeting. Challenged by Mayor Loretta Gluckstein’s arguments that since schools are open and activities continuing for students, Dougherty said there are many more educational benefits to in-person learning and indicated that goes into decision making.
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Gluckstein made it clear she did not intend to hold any workshop meetings via ZOOM, saying that as wonderful as zoom is, “it is not productive.”
Councilman Stephen Borrachia, who wants the governing body to begin to conduct meetings to get input on cannabis use or facilities in the borough, said he feels in person meetings would bring out more people and be better.
While council members bantered about their reasons both for and against Zoom, hybrid or in person meetings, Councilman James Murphy cut to the topic of taking immediate action, and the governing body agreed to the Zoom meetings for January with another assessment at the Jan. 27 meeting.