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Emotions Fire Up Over Brush Citations

Cinnaminson's Department of Public Works' brush citations don't sit well with some, but a committeeman says it's the only way to get people to adhere to the rules.

With spring arriving early this year, many Cinnaminson homeowners took advantage of the mild weather to spruce up their yards. But that yard work came at a price for some.

Residents, including many on Erlington Drive, who hauled brush into the street outside of their designated collection period received citations from the township.

Count Janice Stonaker among those rubbed the wrong way by the citations from the Department of Public Works (DPW) superintendent, Frederick Turek. She received one on March 21, as did many of her neighbors, Stonaker said.

“I’ve lived here for almost 26 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. The citation was a first notice and did not include a fine.

It’s not the brush rules—which stipulate a time period for when brush can go curbside—or the schedule that upsets Stonaker, but the tone of the citation and what she feels is lack of communication about the regulations.

“It’s really a harsh, threatening citation. They list all of these consequences possible—a summons to appear in municipal court, putting a lien against my property for work performance by the DPW,” she said. “But before they send such a threatening letter, they better make sure they have all their T’s crossed and I’s dotted.”

The missing crosses and dots in this case, Stonaker said, are two-fold. She pointed to the outdated Cinnaminson DPW website, which still showed the 2011 collection schedule as of Monday evening. By Tuesday morning, the schedule changed to 2012.

Stonaker also said paper notifications were lacking. A mailer from the township didn’t catch her eye and she tossed it.

(Three parts of the mailer sent home to residents can be clicked on at right.)

“They really need to notify residents before sending out a citation like that,” Stonaker said. “Why not use the townwide notification system to remind people of the rules before the pickups start, so people don’t violate them? It's easy enough, they use it to remind people about Cinnaminson Day."

But Committeeman Ben Young, director of public works, takes exception to the idea that residents aren’t informed about brush rules. Cinnaminson and Young himself have gone to great lengths to inform residents about the rules, he said.

“Two notices went out, one in tax bills and another mailed. I’ve talked about these regulations at township committee meetings for years. But people don’t listen. There are times when they’ll put out brush a day after the pickup, then it just sits there,” Young said. “We’ve been trying to enforce the rules, but it seems like people won’t listen until they get a citation.”

The DPW’s Turek did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Cinnaminson isn’t enforcing the brush rules on a lark, Young said. The state Department of Environmental Protection is cracking down on stormwater regulations and Cinnaminson has to stay compliant, which means enforcing municipal stormwater rules. When brush is left curbside for too long or on top of drains, it hampers stormwater management, Young said.

It's also a matter of sheer volume. In recent years, the annual brush haul increased from 7,500 yards to 35,000. With that much brush, the rules must be followed, Young said.

“And frankly, I’m amazed people don’t take more pride in their property. It doesn’t look good to have piles of brush out in front of your house for a month,” the committeeman added. “Who wants that? I would think people would have more pride in their property.”

Cinnaminson’s brush pickup schedule operates on a four-week cycle in March through October. The township has a map delineating four zones, with each zone getting a pickup during a specific week of the month. Resident may put their brush by the curb, but not blocking storm drains, no more than seven days in advance.

Now that she knows the rules, Stonaker said she plans to fall in line. Cited neighbors are now hauling their brush back to the curb in anticipation of their neighborhood’s April 2 pickup.

“You know, (Cinnaminson DPW) went to the trouble of driving around, looking for violations, just a few days before we were allowed to put the brush out anyway. Why not just warn people of the rules first?” she said. “My beef isn’t with the rules or with the township committee—they have a job to do. I just wish the township would think about notification and the tone of the citations first.”

John M Walker March 29, 2012 at 05:04 PM
You are not uphauled, you are appalled...
vincent3403 March 29, 2012 at 05:45 PM
There are two ways to look at this. Let's take out all the other restrictions that have resulted from PCWA's actions and look strictly at brush pick-up, the crux of this story. The town ordinance has always had a one-week restriction "on the books" for years. As it was a town ordinance only, enforcement was flexible and at our discretion. Why was the ordinance still on the books if the town is not going to enforce it? And, what's the problem with enforcing it? Take the new requirements out of the equation, allowing brush to "float" down to the drainage systems because the ordinance is not enforced or residents are not in compliance, can back up the drains allowing water to pool on the streets (happens where I work in Camden all the time where storm drains are clogged with debri and streets are flooded after heavy rains). Everyone here started out saying it's a requirement just do it and how it makes our streets a mess when the rules aren't enforced. Now it's the fault of the PCWA because the rules have to be enforced? It was mentioned that not following rules also give DPW additional work to back track and pick debri backing up the whole collection cycle. Seems the ordinances should have been enforced to begin with not at "our discretion". This is strictly about brush pickup.
Committeeman Anthony Minniti March 29, 2012 at 06:52 PM
@Vincent, you're confusing the issue so I will attempt to simplify; Some have expressed the desire to have more flexibility in the enforcement of brush pickup. When pickup was governed by local ordinance, the town was the enforcement agent, hence we had the ability to consider something like the recommendation of former Committeeman O'Connor and adopt an informal 2 day grace period (9 rather than 7 days). Due to the NJDEP classification of Cinnaminson and the Pompeston, combined with the mandatory MS4 regulations, the town has no ability to be flexible. The ordinance mandated by NJDEP sets a strict 7 days limit. For the record, I never said following the limit was wrong or that I was necessarily against it. There are very valid reasons for complaince and I've outlined those above. That said, I also understand those who feel there should be some flexibility in our enforcement efforts. The point is the town no longer enjoys the option of flexibility because the time frame is mandated by the NJDEP. PCWA is mentioned because their advocacy of Cinnaminson being designated "Class A protected" has resulted in the loss of flexibility the town once enjoyed.
Cindy Pierson March 29, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Sorry I didn't respond quickly enough for some of you - I teach, and have to wait until I get home from work to take a look at the patch comments. Now that I have scanned the comments, I am going to follow my own advice and type my response, have someone proofread it, and then I'll post it. I would rather take a little bit of time so that I can address specific comments with accurate information that can be documented, instead of just lashing out or being accused of trying to scapegoat anyone. Please be patient.
AnoninCinna March 29, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Mr. Minnitti - you are essentially passing the buck to the PCWA. The PCWA didn't write the strongly worded threatening "warning". The PCWA didn't have outdated information regarding brush pickup on their website. Nor is the PCWA responsible for the lack of notification or clarity of information to residents. Please Mr. Minnitti. Your smoke and mirrors aren't fooling anyone.
Steve S March 29, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Dear Cinnaminson Residents, After being informed two times with your tax bill and special mailers and being told numerous times on TV during televised meetings, we would like to remind you one more time of our brush policy. Now gosh darn it, PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE WITH SUGAR ON TOP, PLEASE FOLLOW THE RULES OR WERE GONNA HAVE TO ASK YOU NICELY AGAIN. Then if you still don’t listen, were going to have to ask you nicely to go see our Judge and talk it out some more over tea and cookies. Love with extra special huges and kisses, Representative AnoninCinna. Get Real you cry baby liberal. Just put out your brush when you’re supposed to, not when you want to.
vincent3403 March 29, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Mr. Minniti, I don't think I'm confusing the issue at all. There are ordinances in place for a reason. Pretty much everyone on here seems to be in agreement that the ordinances need to be enforced to have a smooth flow in the pickup. It's great that we can be flexible but it seems to create more work and, if most residents are complying, then all should be. By following the rules, it lessens the work for DPW and keeps the streets clear of debri when it shouldn't be there. It allows the drain system to do what it is supposed to do; clear the water from the streets. What's so confusing?
vincent3403 March 29, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Mr Minniti, as an aside, I think the issue has been complicated by attempting to explain at length PCWA's involvement with all of this. You yourself in earlier posts on Wednesday cited that the ordinances should be followed to keep Cinnaminson streets clean and not have duplicate work down by public works. I'm not sure why now we have to be upset by losing our "flexibility" in following the ordinances. That choice of "flexibility" is what causes problems when some residents are giving leeway and some aren't based on arbitrary decisions. We all need to be treated equally as residents, right?
vincent3403 March 29, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Except that PCWA's actions have nothing to do about the issue should the ordinances be enforced for everyone for the betterment of our community? If they should then PCWA is a non-issue unless you feel we should "bend the rules" when it suits us. And then who gets to have that flexibility and who doesn't. It's sets a bad precendent when we pick and choose what rules to follow; I'm a democrat and even I know that. And even though environmentalists may be a bit too passionate in their causes it evens out those who could care less and use the streets, parks, etc as their own private dumping grounds for their trash and waste. Otherwise we'd be living near a cesspool instead of a creek.
Cindy Pierson March 29, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I would like to politely point out that Mr. Minniti is mistaken. I have uploaded several PDF documents that will show that the PCWA is not responsible for the things Mr. Minniti accuses us of. Also check www.state.nj.us/dep and looke up the NJ Municipal Land Use Law and read article 12! Note that the laws and requirements that the committee fought were from the state, not the PCWA. And even though they fought, all of those laws were adopted by the committee and made part of the township code. I find it interesting that the committee seems to be proud that they fought against regulations whose purpose is to protect the health and safety of residents. I have not read any of the citations, but I get the impression that people were upset by the tone and wording more than the citations themselves. And for the record, I support the township's yard waste policy - when debris of this type gets washed to the storm sewers, it creates all kinds of problems - from street flooding to non-point source pollution. Perhaps if the township had taken advantage of the offer to host neighborhood stormwater education programs, people would understand the situation more clearly, and would have been on the lookout for the brush pick-up schedule to arrive, or known where to look for it. And in spite of attempts to discredit both the PCWA and me personally, we would still be happy to work with the township to provide these free programs
Office Mouse March 29, 2012 at 09:11 PM
The Public Works website was not wrong, they were late changing the heading "2011" to "2012. The schedule has been the same for 12 years. The Township also made a contribution to the Make A Splash Foundation last year supporting Stormwater Education. Thank you Mr. Minniti for taking the time to communicate with our residents.
AnoninCinna March 29, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Dear Steve, FYI, I actually agree with the ordinance. I appreciate efforts to keep my neighborhood clean and free from debris, as well as keep our stormdrains clear to reduce backups. What I don't agree with is Mr. Minnitti blowing smoke by bringing the PCWA into this rather than address the actual issue itself: brush pickup. Not to mention his usual tone of hubris and condescension.
Mr. Hankey March 29, 2012 at 11:24 PM
I would like the town to address the real issue, enforcing the ordinance to keep squirrels from moving into my brush. It is hard to remove them, especially with all the prickly sticks from the rose garden.
joe1` March 30, 2012 at 12:04 AM
This local ordinance is simple and straightforward. Superintendent Turek and the DPW should also abide by the law. It is a Federal offense for the DPW to place the violation notice and brush schedule directly in mailboxes without postage - they can be fined for each offense.
Lauren Burgoon March 30, 2012 at 12:16 AM
From talking to Janice, it appears as though the notices were left inside front door handles, not mailboxes. I don't know if that happened with every notice. Janice, if you're still out there and I am recalling that incorrectly, feel free to weigh in.
joe1` March 30, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Not mine. Was in the mailbox.
Cindy Pierson March 30, 2012 at 01:22 AM
I tried to not chime in again, but Mr.Minniti is wrong about a number of things.I was told by the patch editor to make sure I only write facts that can be documented & verified because alot of people who read the patch believe that everything that appears is the absolute truth.I obeyed-Others apparently don't have to follow the same rule. 1)Yes, the PCWA did support the STATE's decision to name the creek a category 1protected waterway- because of the highlevels of substances in the water that are harmful to humans & the presence of endangered species The designation prevents development that would increase pollutants & provides resources & funding opportunities for protecting the creek & creekside properties.Contact me for a copy of the report on the 11 year water quality study that the PCWA did-it is not what the state based the determination on, they used data from their own study and from Rutgers.We tried to present the report to the entire community, but the committee only gave us 15 minutes at an executive session (after postponing for months)& didn't allow questions from the public.Contrary to Mr.Minniti's coments,we have presented stormwater education at Cinnaminson Day, at the New Albany School Science night, at the 4 checkpoints along the Walk the Walk route, at all of our cleanups & work sessions & dozens of other events.Just because no one from the committee attended doesn't mean we didn't present the information.
Cindy Pierson March 30, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Category 1 protected waterway, not "Class A"-the designation applies only to the tidal portion of the creek, not all of Cinnaminson- and "loss of flexibility" a used above means "not allowed to do whatever we want with no regard for the consequences to the public and the environment". The PCWA has offered to work with the township many times, only to be blown off, quite rudely in some instances. The twp donated money to "Make a Splash" - we had 4 educational stations at the event (no committee members attended).We offered to help retrofit detention basins, to help the twp meet the stormwater requirements- at NO COST to the twp-we were ignored. We have invited the committee members to our meetings, and no one responds.It took years before they would allow a link to our website from their site's community organizations page-I'm surprised they haven't removed the link. My personal impression is that rather than take responsibility for problems, they blame other organizations or try to distance themselves from a situation.They are so sure that they are absolutely right about everything, and try to bully any one who says otherwise into submission.I urge everyone to do their own research, send OPRA requests for information, watch replays of committee meetings or get copies of meeting minutes,ask questions, demand factual answers - and then decide who is telling the truth and who isn't.
Lauren Burgoon March 30, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Gotcha, thanks. I didn't realize you had received one.
Cindy Pierson March 30, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I have been told that I can only write facts that can be documented or I have to make it clear that what I write is my personal impression. You should do the same Mr. Minniti. If you are going to write about the stormwater laws, please give accurate information! I urge everyone to visit the link that you posted, and I defy you to show me anywhere on the nj.gov/dep site (or anywhere else for that matter) where the PCWA is the reason Cinnaminson has to comply with the Tier A standards. It is a state law, that EVERY town has to comply with. Cinnaminson was not targeted! And I would appreciate it if you would stop making inflammatory statements (that are bordering libel) based on information that you are apparently just making up out of thin air. Your comments are filled with misinformation, and a number of outright lies. It is my opinion that you are trying to damage the reputation of the PCWA because of some personal grudge or vendetta against me and the organization. Please start using facts, not fantasy - People have a right to like us or hate us, but they should be allowed to form their own opinions based on information that can be documented and verified, not the nonsense you have been allowed to post. [For the record, only the tidal portion of the creek has been designated a Category 1 protected waterway-not "Class A"-and it doesn't mean "endangered"-LOOK IT UP!]
Cindy Pierson March 30, 2012 at 09:58 PM
lies and misinformation. email me at turtlelady527@comcast.net and I will send you the links for every aspect of the state requirements. If you like, I can also send you copies of the twp's annual stormwater reports (I got my copies via an OPRA request). I welcome everyone to come to PCWA meetings - 4th wednesday of each month - and see who we really are and what we really do. Please try to refrain from forming an opinion and posting nasty & negative comments until after you get the facts - not minnit's version, not my version, but the actual facts of the situation from the state and county.
Cindy Pierson April 01, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Where has everyone gone? We the People, Silvia, Reality Check - Did you do the research, visit the links and find out that someone's comments were untrue and uncalled for? I guess the name calling and sarcasm aren't as much fun, or as easy, when the target of the venom counters with courtesy and facts.
Lynn Amatrudi April 02, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Committeeman Anthony Minniti and Fred Turek - I would like to have someone interpret what the brochure says that you hand out: Brush Pickup: Brush is picked up between March and October. To insure pickup of brush (during the appropriate season) it must be at the curb no later than 7:00 A.M. on the Monday morning of the collection week scheduled for your area. Brush and/or leaves can only be placed curbside for collection one week prior to the beginning of the week of your scheduled pickup. Failure to comply may result in fines assessed. At the end of the season, your last bush pickup will be the week in October that you are scheduled, not the end of the month. I am specificially looking at the 3rd sentence. Thank you
Nancy VanTwistern April 02, 2012 at 01:48 PM
All I know is....In some areas I have had to drive in the middle of the road to avoid leaves/limbs etc. and when cars are coming the other way it makes it more difficult. ALSO, Since moving here awhile back we have been pleased with the services afforded by the township government! ALTHOUGH, the price IS included in our taxes.......which I hope don't increase much anymore ELSE....................
Phil April 02, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Lynn, hopefully this will answer your question. The 1st group for April had to have their brush out there by 7 AM this morning. This means the earliest they could have their brush out for pick-up was 7 AM on March 26. Those that had gotten cited had brush out for pick-up for this week but had it curbside prior to March 26.
Bobby April 02, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I had a few branches at the curb that the wind blew down. A large Refuse truck and a backhoe with a front scoop parked in front of my house. Two men got out and looked at my twigs. The truck driver got back in the truck and, a few minutes later, walked up to my house and left me a citation. It would have taken much less time to pick up the twigs, especially since the truck and loader were already there. Fearing for God knows what wrath, I broke up the twigs and put them in a trash bag. Couldn't the Township use someone in a car or pickup to drive around giving out citations. I'm just saying...........
Long time resident April 02, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Its seems simple to me. Since so many people have fire pits, etc...., in their backyards now, it is time to start burning your own leaves and brush like we used to do.
Steve S April 02, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Wow Bobby! You broke up the twigs and put them in the trash like you should have in the first place? Wasn't that easy? I'm just saying...........
Lynn Amatrudi April 02, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Phil, Thanks for the info - but what I was really trying to understand is that it does say brush and/or leaves - meaning both brush and leaves - hence the word AND - and I was told that my little bit of leaves that was amongst the brush was the reason it was not picked up. I'm just trying to get some clarification since I was told to read the brochure that was circle so nicely for me and that's what it said - brush AND/OR leaves - so I believe what I had out there was OK.... THANKS
cinnalert April 23, 2012 at 01:06 PM
IMPORTANT MEETING ALERT! I have learned from sources that Cinnaminson planning committee will be hearing an application tomorrow(Tuesday) night 4-24 at 7:30pm. The plan for reuse of the Corestates Bank on the corner of Meeting House and Route 130 will be presented. I'm told that former candidate for council, KEN GERTIE is the owner and is FIGHTING against the township requirement for sidewalks on Route 130. PLEASE ATTEND and tell all who are worried about Route 130 safety to come. The planning committee needs to know the people of Cinnaminson support a safer Route 130! It is important that we the community DEMAND Mr. Gertie put the safety of our town and Route 130 first!

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