Discussion of zoning ordinance becomes heated



FLEMINGTON — Conversation about Flemington Borough’s zoning ordinance became a little heated during a council meeting Thursday night.

Jeff Shroat, owner of a property on Woods Avenue, and one of his tenants, Corey Meyer, asked to discuss a $50 fine they received for a portable carport located behind Shroat’s property.

The fine was issued due to Shroat not having a zoning permit for the structure.

Both Meyer and Shroat believe the fine was unwarranted because the structure, which they referred to as a tent, isn’t permanent like a shed, Shroat said.

“It’s not a permanent structure,” he said.

At one point during the discussion both Meyer and Shroat accused Mayor Gary Durkin of “chuckling under his breath” while they spoke.

Durkin also lives on Woods Avenue and is Meyer and Shroat’s neighbor.

Shroat went as far as to call him a “sad excuse for a mayor.”

Council President Albert “Hap” Hill immediately cut in to avoid further conflict.

“This idea of pointing fingers isn’t going to get you anywhere,” he said. “You can express your opinion and we’ll do our best to listen and answer your questions.”

Borough Secretary Charity Walizer-Etters read various definitions from the borough’s zoning ordinance, including the definition of carport.

“A roofed accessory structure usually attached to its principal building which provides space for the parking or storage of one or more vehicles. Said structure is covered by a roof, supported by columns or posts, and is enclosed on not more than three sides,” she read.

She also listed the definition of a building accessory.

“A detached, subordinate structure located on the same lot as the principal building, serving a purpose customarily incidental to the use of the principal building,” the ordinance reads.

Shroat and Meyer still disagreed with the fine, saying that the ordinance does not reference a tent at all.

Hill disagreed with Shroat and Meyer saying he believed the structure does need a permit.

“The material the carport is made out of doesn’t matter,” Councilman David Grimm agreed.

Councilman Gary Mellott also agreed with his fellow councilmen.

If during the purchase the product said “tent” then it would be just that, he said. But if it said “carport” it’s different.

Shroat agreed to either take down the structure or apply for a zoning permit but not before bringing up a downed tree in Durkin’s property.

“To me (the tree) is dangerous to my family,” he said.

He said he believed it houses small animals such as snakes and can be a source of mosquito problems.

He also said he called the borough to issue a complaint and two days later he received the fine, also mentioning that Durkin was outside when they put the structure up.

“I don’t appreciate the insinuation that council respects one person more than another,” Grimm said. He asked ordinance enforcement officer Bill Brungard if there was anything the borough can do about the tree.

Brungard said the borough only has an ordinance for a tree that’s still standing but is a threat to public safety.

Durkin agreed with Shroat that the tree is not good looking, but said it is not the source of the pest problem.

“I’ve lived there for 41 years … I’ve dealt with mosquitoes … geese,” he said. “The issue is people feeding (animals) on either side of us.”

Shroat referenced the borough’s maintenance ordinance which says structures conducive to wilds animals are prohibited.

“All of Woods Avenue is like that along the canal,” Durkin said.

Hill agreed with Durkin.

“It’s a fact,” he said, referencing to the various animals he’s dealt with during his life in Flemington.

“You have these things all over and you can’t blame anything,” he said. “Unless there’s an ordinance to make him remove the tree we can’t do anything.”

Shroat said he would pay the fine and either remove the structure or apply for a permit.

Brungard requested council think about discussing the zoning ordinance in relation to structures such as pop-up tents similar to Shroat’s carport in the future.

Councilmembers Traci Kuntz and Wayne Allison were absent from Thursday’s meeting.