By JOHN T. WARD
Stopping short, for now, of re-banning fast-food restaurants, Fair Haven officials took steps Monday night to instead prohibit drive-thru restaurants.
The borough council also plans to have the town join a rapidly growing list of New Jersey towns that have banned single-use plastic shopping bags.
• The governing body, faced with the task of replacing a 1973 ban on fast-food restaurants that was found earlier this year to have been inadvertently repealed 17 years ago, is planning to assemble a committee to look at how a new law should be worded.
The committee’s aim will be to ensure a new ordinance doesn’t have unforeseen adverse effects on existing businesses and property owners, Mayor Ben Lucarelli told the audience at a council meeting Monday night.
That committee hasn’t yet been formed because of time constraints of the unidentified individuals he hopes to name to it, Lucarelli said.
Meantime, the council introduced a law that would ban drive-up, drive-thru and walk-up windows.
Tracy Cole, however, objected to what she called a “piecemeal” approach, and said that rather than barring fast-food eateries, the proposal would permit such chains as Taco Bell and Subway.
“I appreciate the fact that you are trying to clarify things,” said Cole, but the community has been “consistent about wanting a ban on fast-food restaurants.”
Cole is one of two borough residents who have hired lawyers to oppose a highly controversial proposal to create a Dunkin’ coffee-and-doughnut shop in the Acme-anchored shopping center on River Road.
“I said it’s going to happen, and it will,” Lucarelli responded. “We have to respect property owners, and we have to study, to the best of our ability, the unintended consequences” so they aren’t harmed, he said.
Councilman Chris Rodriguez said the idea for the “stopgap” ban on drive-thrus was his, and defended it.
“I think a lot more people want to address safety issues at hand” than ban fast food, he said. “I think that’s the most important thing, and the most defensible.
“But I don’t see how it opens us to anything new” in terms of business types, he added.
Any new law would not derail the Dunkin’ proposal now making its way through a series of planning board hearings, said borough attorney Sal Alfieri.
The introduced version of the interim ordinance includes language to prohibit walk-up window service. Carolyn Ferguson, of Colonial Court, noted that would prohibit a business such as Strollo’s Lighthouse in Red Bank from operating in town.
A new law limiting or banning fast food restaurants would have first be introduced by the council, then sent to the planning board for a compliance check regarding the borough’s Master Plan, and then returned to the council for a public hearing and adoption vote.
• The council also introduced a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, styrofoam food containers and plastic drinking straws. A number of residents spoke in favor of the measure, including Valerie Wagner of Lake Avenue.
“Plastics are becoming the inheritance for our children, a toxic inheritance,” she said.
There were no comments in opposition.
If enacted, as expected, at the July 15 meeting, the ban would put Fair Haven in league with a a growing list of New Jersey towns that have banned single-use plastic shopping bags, including Little Silver.
Both proposed ordinances can be found here. (Note that the ban on walk-ups was added to 2019-08 prior to introduction.)