Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2018 10:00 am
OCEAN CITY – Term limits for members of local boards, authorities and commissions are a thing of the past.
Council voted Dec. 13 to repeal term limits for members of local volunteer boards. Currently, appointees on these boards serve for no more than two terms.
These local boards provide input and oversight to everything from planning, zoning, the environment, utilities and historic preservation.
Council and Mayor Jay Gillian said retaining knowledgeable people was the impetus for nixing term limits.
“Limiting the term of volunteer citizen leaders can have the effect of depriving the municipality of experienced, qualified individuals still willing to serve the city,” according to the ordinance.
During the ordinance’s introduction, council added a three-year sunset provision in order to examine its effectiveness.
City Solicitor Dorothy McCrosson said the ordinance would remain in effect for one year and will be automatically repealed or adopted again on or before Dec. 13, 2021.
The ordinance passed 5-0. Councilmen Keith Hartzell and Tony Wilson were not present to vote.
Some residents questioned the motives behind the ordinance, saying it could lead to some members becoming entrenched on boards and not allowing new members.
Ocean Avenue resident Donna Moore said while the sunset provision is “helpful,” current serving members could still be reappointed.
“It’s a great idea, but the three years allows for the same people to be reappointed during this timeframe,” Moore said. “When you talk about the shortage of people volunteering for these positions there are people who have volunteered for these positions and they’ve been told there were so many people applying for these positions that they just couldn’t appoint everyone and the positions were already filled.”
David Hayes, president of the taxpayer watchdog group Fairness in Taxes, said he views the ordinance “both ways” in retaining those with talent while at the same time unfortunately discouraging any new members from serving.
“I’ve gotten several calls from taxpayers in Ocean City and they said they’re not in favor of this (ordinance). They just think it’s a way to keep the same people on the boards for as long as they can,” Hayes said. “I think it is important that we encourage new people to come onto the boards and new people to apply.”
Councilwoman Karen Bergman said people have volunteered but are not qualified for certain local boards.
“You need a certain background to serve on the planning board. You need a certain background to serve on the tourism commission and the zoning board. They’re very important positions that shape our city,” Bergman said. “If we have people that are talented and qualified to have to lose them in three years and (get) people that don’t have the same qualification or talents to me that’s a shame and a loss for our boards.”
Councilman Michael DeVlieger noted that some of the city’s volunteer boards are “more popular than others” and receive the most applicants.
“You can have 500 people apply to the planning board. It doesn’t mean 500 people are qualified for the planning board,” DeVlieger said. “Their opinions are valued but they’re not necessarily the best fit.”
DeVlieger said some boards should require a certain level of expertise from their applicants.
Councilman Bob Barr, a past member of the city’s Utility Advisory Board, noted the number of members were limited because of a lack of a quorum.
“We only had one meeting a year simply because we couldn’t get enough people to show up,” Barr said.
As council’s liaison to the Utility Advisory Board, Barr said the number of meetings were cut from 12 to six.
Barr, current chairman of the Ocean City Housing Authority, noted that six people applied to the authority to fill two vacant positions earlier this year.
“The younger generation sadly isn’t as civically engaged as most of the members of the audience tonight. I have a personal commitment that as long as somebody wants to come up and serve and are qualified they will be dutifully considered,” Barr said.
The city is currently seeking volunteers to fill vacant seats on the following boards and commissions: Environmental Commission (1 seat), Tourism Development Commission (2 seats), Historic Preservation Commission (1 seat), Zoning Board of Adjustment (1 seat), and the Shade Tree Committee (1 seat).
Send resumes to Melissa Rasner, City Clerk, 861 Asbury Ave., Ocean City NJ 08226.
Duties and responsibilities of each entity can be found on the city’s website, www.ocnj.us under Government, Boards & Commissions. Applicants can complete an online Citizen Leadership Form on the city’s website.