The Hazlet Township Committee voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance dissolving the Zoning Board of Adjustment and establishing a joint land use board after a public hearing Tuesday night.
Under the ordinance, introduced by the committee on Jan. 14, the Planning Board will essentially absorb the Zoning Board's responsibilities. The new board will be officially known as the Township of Hazlet Land Use Board.
The ordinance must be approved by voter referendum before it can go into effect.
According to the ordinance, the board will contain a total of nine members consisting of four different classes. Class I refers to the mayor or the mayor's designee; Class II refers to a municipality official other than a committeemember; Class III refers to a member of the committee; Class IV refers to citizens of the municipality.
The Township Committee will be able to appoint four alternative Class IV members to the Land Use Board if it is approved by voters. These members can participate in discussions of board proceedings but will not be able to vote unless a board member is absent or disqualified, according to the ordinance.
On Jan. 14, Township Attorney Ronald Cucchiaro explained that combining the Planning and Zoning boards can have both economic and town planning benefits.
"You are now the body adopting the master plan and also making determinations about use variances, so I think you have a greater appreciation for what the intent of the master plan is when you have a joint board," he said. "I think there is a greater consistency when the same body is doing the master plan and also making decisions on variances."
"From an economic benefit, you meet less evenings so there are less costs associated with running the building," he said.
Committeeman Scott Aagre, who voted against the ordinance, questioned whether the combined board would prove to be more efficient than two separate boards.
"I've been on the Planning Board since the early 90s. The last couple years the market's been slow, so naturally the boards have been slow. We're talking about several large projects coming up plus the redevelopment on 36," he said, noting that even if they are paying only one attorney and one engineer, they will still have the same number of hours to work.
"I believe it is necessary to have the two separate based on size [of the town] and based on volume of the upcoming projects perceived to be coming up," he said.
The township has not yet decided whether to hold a special election or to wait for the November election.