Q&A: Advisory Committees

Q “With the huge growth of condo and co-op units in New Jersey, it is long overdue for municipalities to form advisory committees to better serve those communities with input on the special needs of condo, co-op owners and renters. I know of only one community, Hackensack, that has such an advisory committee. Are there any others? And what are you thoughts as to the need for such municipal advisory committees and the missions could serve?”

–Just Curious

A “There is a practical and ongoing need for dialogue between the elected council of a municipality and those citizens serving as volunteer members of community association boards,” says Samuel J. McNulty, a partner with New Jersey law firm of Hueston McNulty, P.C. “When I served as an elected councilman in Florham Park, New Jersey, I was the council liaison to the Housing Committee for that borough. The borough was required to form and keep a Housing Committee by applicable land use law. The function of the committee was primarily to coordinate the affordable housing units that had been created in the municipality. This included ensuring that persons seeking to purchase the units were economically-qualified and that the administrator of the program was responsive to the needs of the persons in the program. We expanded the function of the committee by affirmatively reaching out to the boards of the several condominium associations that were located in Florham Park. We scheduled meetings with the elected board members and their property managers to open a direct line of communication between them and the Borough Council. It was an effective initiative.

“New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has initiated changes to the affordable housing obligations of New Jersey municipalities. While his system-wide reevaluation of this government function moves forward, it would be appropriate for those New Jersey municipalities who have already established their Housing Committees to expand those committee’s functions as we did in Florham Park.

“A letter, telephone call or email is all that is needed for a governing body to initiate a meeting and to provide a valuable communication vehicle between elected officials and elected community association leaders. Topics that arose in Florham Park’s outreach to community association leaders included municipal services reimbursement issues; coordination of action to maintain sidewalks and boundary areas in the “no-man’s land” between the association and public property; fire and water service issues and even outreach by the municipality for volunteers for municipal committees. It was well worth it for both parties.”

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