Newarkers looking online recently to find out exactly what the city’s Central Planning Board (CPB), Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), and Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission (LHPC) will be considering during their next meetings have been out of luck.
Although the committees have continued to convene and legal notices have been issued, agendas and minutes for all three boards have not been posted on the City of Newark’s website in several months. While the determination agenda for the CPB was posted following the meeting on March 12 and minutes were posted from some CPB, ZBA, and LHPC meetings in January, February, and March, not a single agenda has been posted online in advance of any meeting in 2018.
Jersey Digs called the Newark Office of Planning and Zoning earlier this month and was told by a representative that she would check with the person responsible for putting the agendas and minutes online since they should have been posted, but no attachments have been added to the website in the time since.
There is no state requirement that municipalities post agendas and minutes for these types of boards, committees, and commissions, but Newark did so for several years through the website of the Office of Planning, Zoning, & Sustainability (OPZS) and plenty of New Jersey cities like Jersey City, New Brunswick, Paterson, and Camden regularly continue to upload.
The latest gap in agendas and minutes being posted digitally comes after the OPZS website was out of service for close to four months during the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018. When Jersey Digs asked the city in November 2017 when the site would be restored, a spokesperson cited “complex technical issues” and expected it to be restored in a week or more.
However, the pages never ended up being activated again. Agendas were not posted online until three new pages were launched on the Department of Economic and Housing Development’s new Office of Planning and Zoning website. Timestamps on the site show that no agendas or minutes have been uploaded for any of the three boards since March 19th.
Newark has had three different municipal website designs in the last five years. City Hall launched a different design at the former web address of ci.newark.nj.us in the summer of 2014 with a statement from Mayor Ras Baraka that read in part that “our administration has pledged itself to creating the most efficient, responsive, and transparent government in Newark’s long history.” A little over two years later, the city began a transition to the current website at newarknj.gov.