Petition Drive Leads To Suspension Of Commercial Garbage Ordinance

By on June 11, 2018

Township Manager Matt Cavallo has suspended a new ordinance on commercial garbage collection after a petition drive started by Lakeside Deli gathered the required number of signatures for a challenge. The ordinance, which had been approved by the Town Council on May 21, had been championed by Deputy Mayor Michael Nochimson. Councilmen Jack McEvoy and Ted Giblin had opposed the measure over concerns that it was not business friendly.

Verona is organized as a so-called Faulkner Act municipality and, under that act, Council decisions can be challenged through a petition. Last year, a group of residents used the petition provision to scuttle the township’s purchase of the Congregation Beth Ahm synagogue to be the new home of the Verona Rescue Squad.

But the petition drive this time was significantly more difficult. Under the rules governing Faulkner Act towns, the number of signatures needed on a petition drive must equal at least 15% of the total votes cast in the previous state Assembly election. Because the number of ballots cast in the Assembly election prior to the synagogue purchase had been low, only 179 signatures were needed for that petition. The group got 250, of which 219 were deemed to be valid.

Voting in the most recent Assembly election, which coincided with the presidential election, was higher. As a result, the garbage petition needed 656 valid signatures. The petition, which was available online and at Lakeside, appears to have met that threshold after collecting some 775 signatures. State law requires that petition signatures are witnessed and notarized, so the online signatures cannot be counted even if they are from registered voters in Verona. The township clerk, who was served with the petitions last night, now has 20 days to review the petition.

Verona is one of the few towns in our area that collects commercial garbage as well as household garbage. Ordinance 2018-18 maintained Verona’s collection of commercial garbage but limited pickup to five cans per building.

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Nochimson had lobbied heavily for the revisions to the garbage ordinance over the course of several Council meetings, asserting that garbage cans were a visible eyesore and that businesses were taking advantage of Verona’s garbage collection procedures. He did not mention Lakeside Deli by name in his remarks and the business was not named in the ordinance, but Lakeside occupies a highly visible corner on Bloomfield Avenue at Lakeside Avenue opposite Verona Park. Nochimson did not return a text message seeking comment on the petition drive this morning.

“At no point in time did I not do what is right,” says Jimmy Hill, co-owner of both Lakeside Deli and Eight Hills Catering, in reference to the preceding ordinance. Ironically, Hill had switched to garbage cans from a dumpster several years ago after town officials asked him to do so. He had surrounded the dumpster with a lattice screen and flowers, but it had still drawn complaints. “Our goal as a business is to do the right thing,” Hill said, adding that during Lakeside Deli’s busiest periods, he pays for additional commercial pickups. “We are taxpayers, at this building, and through my home and other businesses in town.”

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