Mayor Brian Mullay either doesn’t know what ExxonMobil is going to “present” to the public at the big September 27, 7 p.m. council meeting, or he’s withholding the information from the community.
It’s hard to say which is worse.
What’s clear is that he wants you to show up.
Some people are intimidated and feel awkward speaking up at public meetings. Like all council meetings, this one is governed by New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act. The OPMA (N.J.S.A. 10:4-12) guarantees you the right to speak during a defined public comment section. You are not required to answer questions from anyone on the dais when you speak. Just remember to be civil and polite.
The mayor said Exxon wants feedback on the future of the property. That is, what do you want on the property? Clinton Township already has land use ordinances that define what Exxon may and may not build on its property:
Warehouses and housing are not permitted.
Some of what is permitted: Business offices, medical offices, child care centers, nursing homes, hotels, laboratories, and data processing centers. Exxon is permitted to use its land accordingly.
It’s very likely Exxon wants to wheel and deal for something the zoning does not allow. Otherwise, it would just submit an application to the planning board.
Assuming you disagree with any non-permitted uses that Exxon proposes, it’s very easy to answer the question:
What do you want on the property?
If you’re going to go the meeting, you should speak and tell Exxon and the mayor and council what you want. You can tell them to stick to the rules:
“The citizens and officials of Clinton Township have invested a lot of time, money, thought and effort in defining our land use wishes in our land use ordinances. Our ordinances have a presumption of validity. They are proven to be legally defensible.
“So, Exxon, its managers, lawyers and planners already know what I want on the Exxon land. So do the mayor and council. I want no wheeling and dealing. I want what our zoning regulations permit on the Exxon property.
“I welcome Exxon to submit a development plan that is fully conforming to our zoning. That is what I want. And I fully expect my township officials not to grant any exceptions to any non-conforming application.”
“I want ONLY what our zoning regulations permit on the Exxon property. Stick to the rules.”
If you are asked not to repeat what other members of the audience have already said, your response is also very easy:
“The Open Public Meetings Act guarantees me the right to say what I want no matter who else has already said it.”
Every person’s comment goes into the record. The more, the better, even if many are the same.
Your public comments matter.