Power to the people
The Township Council may be on the verge of taking a wise political step through the adoption of a new zoning ordinance for Teaneck Road, but can it live with the consequences? As today's Record notes, the proposed guidelines, drafted in concert with residents' groups, enjoy popular support, but they are also at odds with the Master Plan. Given the backdrop, political expediency may outweigh other concerns, but there is no question that a precedent is being set here, and it might be one that certain Council members will find burdensome in the future.
Of course, the recently adopted Master Plan itself is far from the ambitious document originally envisioned by members of the Council Majority and their allies on the Planning Board. Public protest in the form of demands for community input into the process compelled officials to scale back some of their favored proposals and incorporate language binding them to protect the character of residential communities. So, in effect, the groundwork for more restrictive zoning ordinances that emanate not from municipal government, but from neighborhood residents themselves, was laid months ago.
But the compromises that ended the standoff over the Master Plan could be viewed as part of a government-led process that reserved the right to make planning decisions from elected officials and their appointees. This more recent episode clearly cedes that power to a vocal group of involved residents who hold no position and are not accountable to anyone but themselves. Other community members will certainly demand the very same consideration in their own backyards. Time will tell whether that will be a good thing.