By Margie Plunkett
Following months of work by a committee, Manalapan officials and residents met in a December workshop to debate ways to landscape town swales yet protect electric, cable and water utilities.
The efforts seek a landscaping plan that provides guidance for residents who want to plant trees, but also allows the town to determine what trees are appropriate and won’t threaten infrastructure, either underground or overhead.
While commissioners can’t take action at a workshop, they agreed more information is needed: They directed staff to look into whether the water utility could map its lines and find a means to map other utilities, and asked Renny Reynolds of the landscape swale committee to supply names of landscape architects they could query.
Commissioners voiced their desire to protect the infrastructure, but also supported the committee’s efforts, noting a draft ordinance may be too restrictive.
“I happen to think that if our constituents want to improve the look of the town, we should accommodate them to the degree we can,” Commissioner Robert Evans said. “I’m concerned we may be too restrictive in an attempt to protect our infrastructure. We need more expert kinds of advice so we can determine what our town’s going to look like.”
Reynolds. a town architectural commission member and landscape architect whose work is published in magazines including Elle Décor, Architectural Digest and House Beautiful, told the committee that the draft ordinance is “so restrictive that there would be practically nowhere on the entire Point that trees would be allowed in the swales, and that if the guidelines were followed, many of the trees along A1A would need to be removed.”
Roy Rogers, a consultant who was involved with planning Weston, cautioned commissioners: “Don’t go into an ordinance that you may later regret and will have to later revisit. It’s important to know what the vision is as you go forward.”
Commissioner Kelly Gottlieb provided a reality check, reminding commissioners and residents that this year’s tight budget may be prohibitive.
At Manalapan’s regular meeting in December, commissioners:
• Directed attorney Trela White to draft an ordinance that would limit the size and number of real estate signs and eliminate all construction signs. They also asked her to research the development agreement for signs at Plaza del Mar.
• Approved Lisa Petersen as new town clerk to replace Kathryn Sims, who is leaving to move closer to her family. Petersen, now zoning and licensing administrator, will become clerk Jan. 4. Mayor Tom Gerrard suggested exploring ways to restructure the two positions and outsourcing building department responsibilities that could allow the town to eliminate one of the positions.