Twice recently, area municipalities started approving plans to add, take away or change things — and twice they reversed course on the threshold of moving ahead.
Some have said they see this as a sign those local governments aren’t sensitive to constituents’ interests.
But we think it’s just the opposite — they proceeded normally and responded appropriately when residents and businesses expressed their concerns.
Early engagement often is better and makes it easier for officials to respond to concerns, but it’s always a good time for them to listen to their constituents. Failure to do so can leave a community divided and disgruntled.
At the end of September, the Galloway Township Council proposed adding an option for a motorcross track at the township’s Pomona Road redevelopment area. That would have helped advance plans for a 46-acre facility to ride, race, rent, service and store off-road motorcycles — and given council the power to regulate or even shut the facility if need be.
Council checked out the noise that some test motorcycles made, talked to some area people and proceeded with the proposal. But toward the end of October, they dropped the ordinance in response to opposition by area residents and a nearby campground owner.
The developer, who operates a motocross facility at N.J. Motorsports Park in Millville, could still seek a use variance for the township track from the Zoning Board, but now getting approval would be more difficult. That’s appropriate given local opposition to the noise of multiple motorcycles.
The same day the Galloway Council reversed course, Avalon Borough Council decided to hold off on its plan to regulate summer ice cream vendors, including banning such trucks from traveling the streets and selling at street ends at the beach.
Council members said they had received complaints about the nonstop noise and possible risk to pedestrians posed by the six trucks operating under permits from the borough. Instead the council proposed licenses for carts to sell ice cream on the beach but without noisemakers to draw attention.
An operator of two of the ice cream trucks said the borough should instead work with him and other merchants to ensure their operations aren’t a problem. One resident called the proposed ban “almost un-American” and another found it “a little silly.”
We think a town should be allowed to have the kind of mobile ice cream vending it prefers, if any. The council is right to hold off on changing regulations until a public consensus on ice cream vending is apparent.
These cases show that residents and businesses need to pay attention and make themselves heard on matters that concern them. Municipalities notify the public of their meetings and actions, and in these two instances, as in many others, their intentions were described in stories in the newspaper.
Citizen participation in local government affairs isn’t required, but engagement is essential for democracy at any level to work well.
Local government officials typically welcome the public’s views, and those involved in these two instances deserve credit for being receptive to adjusting their rules and plans accordingly.