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Residents Speak Out Against Occupancy Law Proposal

Some say changing the maximum occupancy ordinance will bring lawsuits and potential danger to Parsippany.

A  is not popular with some outspoken Parsippany residents.

The plan was introduced and had its first reading at the July 17 Township Council meeting.

Opponents of the plan argue that waivers and allowances for guests—the amendments proposed for the present occupancy law, according to town administration—will open the door to stacking, the practice of having many more people living in a residence than the law allows.

Parsippany resident Bob Venezia said occupancy laws are designed to protect residents' health, prevent stacking and illegal overuse of community resources and minimize risk for emergency responders. 

Another concern of Venezia's is that allowing waivers could lead to litigation against the town.

"Approving a waiver in one case and denying a similar waiver in another could result in a discrimination lawsuit," said Venezia, who voiced his views before the council on July 17. "The township could also be held negligent for any injury or damages resulting from a condition that would not have existed legally except for a waiver.

"Such lawsuits could be initiated by the occupants themselves, their neighbors or even township employees."

Resident Roy Messmer, another vocal opponent of the proposal, agreed.

"What the administration is [proposing] is ridiculous," he told Patch. "You're asking them to create a waiver on residency, to create a multitude of lawsuits." 

Messmer said that stacking remains a huge problem in the township "in the form of unofficial boarding houses and multiple families living in single-family homes throughout Parsippany."

Parsippany Business Administrator Jasmine Lim told Patch that she doesn't think stacking is a major issue in the township.

"It is my understanding that stacking is largely under control with the adoption of the 2006 occupancy ordinance and the bi-ennial inspections of rental units," she said. 

Messmer also questioned how council members Brian Stanton, Vincent Ferrara and Michael dePierro, who saying that they opposed stacking, possibly could support a change in the maximum occupancy law.

Venezia said another problem he sees with the plan is that it adds more to the workload of township employees.

"This ordinance adds judge, jury, administrative and enforcement duties to the Housing Division," he said. "The guest policy and many of the waivers seem to be unenforceable. The net result is an exacerbation of the stacking problem that already exists in the township."

Venezia said he does have sympathy for as it currently stands.

"I hope there is a way to help them, but the broadly defined, open-ended, unenforceable ordinance being proposed is not the answer," he said. "The council had good intentions when it drew up this ordinance. But there are too many flaws, costs, risks and unintended consequences associated with its implementation."

The Township Council may vote on the proposal its Aug. 21 business meeting. Residents will be permitted to speak out for and against the plan before any vote takes place.

clyde donovan July 27, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Messmer and his former Council cronies Cesaro and Grossi made an issue out of stacking in the past. I believe their claims were found to be unsubstantiated. I've always wondered if local stacking claims were politically motivated and born out of racism and ethnic bigotry.
Kevin July 27, 2012 at 07:17 PM
TC: Yes and Yes
M. Echevarria July 27, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I live in one of the many apartment complexes in town and while I have read and heard about stacking. I have never seen it. Living in extended households is actually a cultural practice for some families.
gina s. July 28, 2012 at 02:38 AM
It has nothing to do with racism, please don't turn this into a racial issue. It has to do with our schools being overcrowded. If a class had 27 students but only 20 of their parents are paying school taxes, well you do the math. This is not racial...it's about everyone paying their fair share.
Judy Dell July 31, 2012 at 03:09 PM
This ordinance should stand and should not be changed. This ordinance was initially put in place because of the negative effects caused by too many people living in one home. I have experienced first hand how this can put a strain on the community due to overcrowding, stacking. I disagree with Lim and I disagree that there is racism here. The reality is that we can only service so many people in the community on the amount of taxes that are collected. We shouldn't change an ordinance that works in order to accomadate something that just doesn't work for the community as a whole.

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