Morristown council: Parents applaud anti-vaping law; demolitions, parking meters and pool fees also get votes

Many in Tuesday's large crowd wanted to address the Morristown council about vaping. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Many in Tuesday's large crowd wanted to address the Morristown council about vaping. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Pleasing a parade of parents, Morristown’s council on Tuesday voted to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes.

Melissa Spiotta urges the Morristown council to approve an anti-vaping ordinance, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
School board member Melissa Spiotta urges the Morristown council to approve an anti-vaping ordinance, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The governing body also adopted measures to delay tear-downs of homes, and to hike fees for the municipal swimming pool for everyone except low-income residents, who will get price breaks.

Another ordinance was introduced to increase time limits (but not prices) on most parking meters, to two hours, up from 90 minutes.

Warning that “vaping” is an epidemic among middle- and high school students, parents from Morristown and Morris Township urged council members to approve Mayor Tim Dougherty’s plan to license manufacturers and vendors of electronic cigarettes, also known as vapes.

By a 6-1 vote, the council agreed. The ordinance also bans sale of these devices and paraphernalia by convenience stores, gas stations and bars.

Morristown Administrator Jillian Barrick explains anti-vaping ordinance, as Mayor Tim Dougherty listens, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Administrator Jillian Barrick explains anti-vaping ordinance, as Mayor Tim Dougherty listens, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Easily concealed or disguised as USB drives, e-cigarettes often have candy flavors that attract young users. They contain nicotine and other substances that federal experts have declared unsafe for children, teens and young adults.

Township resident Jean Jabbour said her 12-year-old son often can’t get into his school bathroom because so many kids are “vaping in the stalls.”

Morristown’s two smoke shops are the only places in town that meet the new criteria for selling e-cigarettes. Restricting sales to these shops, where patrons under 21 are prohibited, should make enforcement easier, town Administrator Jillian Barrick asserted.

Councilman Stefan Armington asked if this creates an unfair monopoly; Barrick said she anticipates it will entice competitors to enter the market.

Attorney Joshua Beinhaker questions Morristown's anti-vaping law, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Attorney Joshua Beinhaker questions Morristown’s anti-vaping law, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“It’s arbitrary and capricious, and could pose problems down the line,” countered Joshua Beinhaker, a Morristown lawyer who described himself as a business owner.

While he opposes vape sales to minors, he said, officials should have worked more closely with vendors on the ordinance .

Councilwoman Alison Deeb cited the same opinion before casting the lone vote against the measure.

Jamie Nyez speaks for 7-Eleven at Morristown Council before anti-vaping vote, may 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jamie Nyez speaks for 7-Eleven at Morristown Council before anti-vaping vote, may 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Jamie Nyez, who introduced himself as a consultant to Morristown’s 7-Eleven store, told the council he’s never seen any issues there over the last 20 years involving any improper sales to minors.

But Melissa Spiotta, a Morris School District board member from Morris Township who lobbied Dougherty for the ordinance, said she saw a teen buy vaping products at 7-Eleven last year.

After discovering his 13-year-old daughter vaping–she insisted it was just “sweet water”–Morristown resident Sam Samman filed a complaint against the Interstate News store at Headquarters Plaza.

It resulted in a $250 “slap on the wrist” for the vendor, according to Samman, who welcomed the stiffer $1,000 penalties and potential store shutdowns in the new ordinance.

Council members Stefan Armington and Robert Iannaccone ask questions about anti-vaping ordinance, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Council members Stefan Armington and Robert Iannaccone ask questions about anti-vaping ordinance, May 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Morristown Partnership, which represents downtown businesses, was consulted about the measure, noted town Attorney Vij Pawar, who expressed confidence it will withstand any legal challenges.

Morristown health officials have identified 16 establishments in town that sell vapes and/or the “pods” that fuel them. They now have 60 days to comply.

Vendors are prohibited from selling vaping items to anyone under 21, and employing anyone under 21. Such establishments cannot operate within 500 feet of a school, public park or playground. Sales of vaping products via self-service displays and vending machines also are banned.

Retail licenses will cost $1,000; manufacturing licenses, $2,500. Proceeds will fund enforcement by the town health officer and police.

KNOCK-DOWNS

The council unanimously adopted an ordinance meant to discourage tear-downs of historic buildings.

Although the town ultimately cannot stop such demolitions, the new law mandates a review process before the town’s Historic Preservation Commission. This process potentially can delay demolition for nine months or more–buying time to dissuade the developer, or at least to document the history being lost.

The measure was prompted by the pending knock-down of a carriage house in Morristown’s Historic District, and the swift demolition of two stately mansions in Montclair earlier this year. The Morristown project won’t be affected by the ordinance.

POOL FEES:

Memberships at the municipal pool at Burnham Park, which opens over the Memorial Day weekend, are going up by $10 in every category, for residents and nonresidents.

For example, the resident family rate rises from $240 to $250. Resident seniors will pay $59 for the season, up from $49. A nonresident family now will pay $360; nonresident seniors will pay $99.

Weekday guest passes for resident adults will be $8, and $6 for resident youths. On weekends, those fees are $10 and $8, respectively. For nonresidents, those weekday guest passes are $10 and $8; on weekends, $15 and $12.

Town residents on food stamps, Medicaid recipients, or families that qualify for free or reduced lunches at school can receive 50 percent discounts on pool badges — for families, babysitters, adults, couples, youths or seniors.

Dee Klikier of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church praised the discounts. Rector Janet Broderick, who is leaving after a decade in Morristown, has advocated for making the pool more accessible to disadvantaged kids. The church has organized pool trips for its youth camp the last two summers, Klikier said.

Mayor Dougherty also made a pitch for lifeguards: The town is hiring.

IN OTHER BUSINESS…

Mayor Tim Dougherty applauds Rakeim Spotswood and Garvin Martin, who evacuated residents of Manahan Village from a fire in April 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, May 14, 2019.
Mayor Tim Dougherty applauds Rakeim Spotswood and Garvin Martin, who evacuated residents of Manahan Village from a fire in April 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, May 14, 2019.

The mayor issued proclamations honoring maintenance workers Garvin Martin and Rakeim Spotswood for swiftly evacuating tenants from an April 4 fire at the Manahan Village public housing complex.

Dougherty also honored Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, organizers of this month’s visit by Team 26 cyclists from Newtown, CT. The mothers group has scheduled another town hall rally, at 10 am on June 7, 2019. Supporters of common-sense gun reforms are invited to wear orange colors.

Mayor Tim Dougherty presents proclamation to Moms Demand Action gun reform activists, May 14, 2019. From left: Terri Laurens, Fern Wolkin, Theresa Piliero, Joni Gilton, Thea Lintern and Jeri Patasnik. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mayor Tim Dougherty presents proclamation to Moms Demand Action gun reform activists, May 14, 2019. From left: Terri Laurens, Fern Wolkin, Theresa Piliero, Joni Gilton, Thea Lintern and Jeri Patasnik. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The mayor and council also remembered two people who made an impact on the community.

Local activist Dorothy Holman, the mother of Council President Toshiba Foster, and Marty Epstein of Marty’s Reliable Cycle both died after long illnesses and were buried last week.

Foster thanked her colleagues and residents for their outpouring of support for her family.

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