By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank council may soon take up a proposed ban on mass balloon releases, its members agreed at their workshop meeting Wednesday night.
Requested by the Environmental Commission, a draft ordinance would make the mass release of balloons filled with lighter-than-air gas a code violation, with a possible fine of up to $1,500, said borough Attorney Greg Cannon. Intentional releases of up to 10 balloons could bring a $250 fine, he said.
Balloon debris litters shorelines and imperils wildlife, advocates of bans say.
Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, liaison to the Environmental Commission, said it was important that Red Bank enact a ban before a family or organization adopts a “tradition” of releasing large numbers of balloons into the air.
Referring to a family she knows, she said “this is their way of celebrating things.
“It’s important to make our environmental standards very clear and in place before somebody starts a tradition of that sort,” she said.
The proposed ban, she said, “is about releasing a ton of balloons, not about releasing balloons at a gender-reveal party inside your house,” said Triggiano.
According to the Chicago Tribune, at least five states and around a dozen American cities have regulations to limit planned balloon releases, including California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. In New Jersey, proposed legislation would prohibit the intentional release of a balloon inflated with lighter-than-air gas.
Meantime, municipalities around the state are moving to impose their own bans. They include Belmar and Bradley Beach, which adopted bans in 2017, and East Brunswick, where a proposed ban would also include aerial luminary lanterns.
Cannon, who also serves as borough attorney in Belmar and Bradley Beach, said “most of the shore towns” have adopted bans, because released balloons “go right out into the ocean” and end up on beaches. “It’s kind of spreading to other towns as well.”
Like other bans, Red Bank’s would carve out exceptions, including government-released research balloons, retrievable hot-air balloons and balloons released indoors, said Cannon.
Enforcement, he said, would occur the same way other ordinances are enforced: code officials and police would have the discretion to issue tickets when they observe violations, and citizens could file complaints.
Mayor Pasquale Menna suggested that Red Bank should “start with the business community.” He said business openings, real estate open houses are “where I see most of them.
“I would not like to see us go with a sledgehammer,” Menna said. He said the town should avoid an approach that prompts a neighbor to file a complaint “because some kid’s singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and the balloon goes in the air. That’s my concern.”
“This ordinance is narrowly tailored toward mass balloon releases at special events,” said Cannon. “This is not a balloon ban.”
“One year, they were given out at the Halloween parade, and they ended up all over the place,” said Councilman Ed Zipprich, in apparent reference to a campaign balloon giveaway in 2014 that triggered claims the nonpartisan event was being politicized.
Business Administrator Ziad Shehady suggested that council members share their concerns and suggestions about the issue with Cannon before he revises a draft ordinance.