Town seeks Luddington input, has no plans to change

Photo by Amanda Valentovic
Township engineer Len Lepore talks about the recent decision to make Luddington Road a one-way street at the Oct. 24 Township Council meeting.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — At the Oct. 24 West Orange Township Council meeting, residents who live on and around Luddington Road questioned the council’s recent decision to make the road one way in an ordinance approved unanimously two weeks earlier.

According to the mayor and engineering department, following the council’s Oct. 3 vote, they heard feedback from both proponents and opponents of the ordinance. On Oct. 20, the administration sent a notice to residents on Luddington Road and the surrounding streets saying members would be walking the neighborhood asking for feedback about the ordinance, though they planned to support the council’s decision to make Luddington Road one way.

“As of right now, we’re just going to walk the neighborhood and talk to the residents,” business administrator Jack Sayers told the West Orange Chronicle in a phone interview on Oct. 26. “There were some conflicting stories and some people changed their mind. We can’t change that, but we do want to walk the neighborhood and hear their thoughts. It’s not a question of changing it, it’s hearing their concerns.”

In the initial survey, mailed to residents during the summer, 13 responses were sent to the engineering department, with 10 households in favor of the change and three against it. Based on that feedback and the traffic and safety studies that were conducted during the course of the year, township engineer Len Lepore’s recommendation was to put the ordinance through to the council.

Melrose Place resident Jason Ryan was against the ordinance, and remained against it at the Oct. 24 meeting. He presented a petition to the council in which 14 of 21 households on Luddington Road said they were against the changing of the traffic pattern. The council’s vote was not solely dependent on residents’ opinions though; the council ultimately voted to pass the ordinance Oct. 3, citing the traffic study and the volume of cars on Luddington Road: 371 cars per day on average travel eastbound and 462 travel westbound.

Council President Joe Krakoviak expressed confusion as to why neighborhood residents were being polled about the ordinance after it had already been passed if there are no plans to change it.

“The polling will have no effect on the ordinance, which the council approved at the administration’s recommendation,” he said in an email on Oct. 25. “Then why is the town seeking to determine the preference of the Luddington residents?”

According to Mayor Robert Parisi, the administration wants to hear from the neighborhood residents as a result of the calls and emails they got after the ordinance passed, both in support and against it.

“A change in traffic can be changed back,” Parisi said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on Oct. 26. “It’s worth giving it four, five or six months, and then revisiting it.”

Parisi added that he wants to talk to residents to help them understand the process of how the traffic study and survey was done, because there were many households who never returned the survey.

“We don’t pass laws,” he said about the administration. “But we can help them understand what the process was and how it was presented to the council.”

Krakoviak voted in favor of the ordinance, but now wants to work to find a solution that is a compromise after seeing the disconnect between some residents and the administration.

“The goal is to increase the safety on the street,” Krakoviak said in a phone interview with the Chronicle on Oct. 25. “We should spend more time with the residents and look at options. Now would be a good time for a community meeting, which it looks like we haven’t done before.”