According to the Asbury Park Press (http://on.app.com/1TPc0Db), board members Avraham Naftali and Judah Ribiat have failed to attend the last three meetings ever since an unidentified individual called “First Amendment Activist” on YouTube began recording the proceedings in March. Naftali left the March meeting early, saying, “I’ve been here a little over 12 years, I believe, and I’m not comfortable. I’m not comfortable with the videos, so I’m going to step out tonight.” He didn’t attend the April or May meetings either. Neither Naftali nor Ribiat would comment for the article.
Prior to the opening of the March meeting, Board Chairman Abe Halberstam said, “Before we begin tonight’s meeting, I’d just like to warn my fellow board members that we’re being videotaped by a private citizen tonight, so be careful what you say and what you’re going to be saying on the record.” Following that announcement, Naftali left the meeting, with Moshe Ingber and Hal Halvorsen leaving before the final application for Belz Center of Lakewood was voted on. The walkout left just three members left to vote, two fewer than the required number of five votes to approve variances.
Some applicants are also unhappy about the presence of the camera. One engineer said two of his clients have decided to postpone bringing their application before the board “because of the camera.” Cameras and other recording devices are permitted under New Jersey’s open public meeting law.”He can film any public meeting he wants, as longs as it’s a public meeting,” said Thomas Henshaw, the township’s manager.
But residents say the absences are impacting the board’s progress, forcing several applicants seeking land use variances to constantly delay their hearings. A minimum of five votes in favor are required for variance approvals.
A lawyer for one of the applicants, Adam Pfeffer, said, “This is the third time that we’re carrying this due to the fact that there are just five members.” Acting chairman for the May meeting Obed Gonzalez responded, “And I do apologize. We’ve had holidays and a lot of situations come up so it’s been very difficult.” Besides putting off prospective applicants, the no-show members also affect local residents who wish to speak in support or opposition of a proposal.
The board is scheduled to meet again in the municipal building on June 20 at 7 p.m.