Red Bank Cracks Down on Graffiti With Stricter Ordinance

A new graffiti ordinance in Red Bank sets strict rules and punishments for those defacing public, private or commercial property. Sunayana Prabhu
A new graffiti ordinance in Red Bank sets strict rules and punishments for those defacing public, private or commercial property. Sunayana Prabhu

By Sunayana Prabhu

RED BANK – Thinking about expressing your creativity on the streets of Red Bank? The borough council says don’t do it.

In response to the recent uptick in graffiti throughout the borough, the council voted to amend the graffiti ordinance, setting clear rules and repercussions for those caught defacing property with any kind of artwork.

The council also established a Graffiti Trust Fund for the remediation of graffitied property and the commissioning of murals and artwork to discourage future graffiti.

The new ordinance, a revised version of the 2003 graffiti ordinance, reworked by borough attorney Greg Cannon, states that any person who intentionally commits an act of graffiti motivated by commercial or personal interests will have to face legal consequences.

The ordinance defines graffiti as “any inscriptions, words, figures, stickers, or designs that are drawn, etched, marked, painted, pasted, scratched, stapled or affixed” to a property without the owner’s knowledge or consent. This includes the posting of bills or any other commercial materials. The ordinance also limits what an owner can paint or post on their property and sets tough punishments for individuals who supply the money, tools or materials to graffiti artists.

Individuals found breaking the graffiti law will be subject to imprisonment of up to 90 days and a fine from $250 up to $1,000. The convicted person may be required to compensate the owner for damages or perform community service for up to 20 days, including removing the graffiti from the property, if appropriate.

In addition to community service, jail times and fines, convicted individuals may be required to pay $50 into the Graffiti Trust Account.

Private property owners will not be eligible to receive money from the Graffiti Trust Fund and must remove graffiti from their properties at their own expense. If a property owner doesn’t comply and the borough removes the graffiti, an owner may be required to pay for expenses with interest. Additionally, any property owner who fails to remove graffiti in a timely fashion will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

Alan Hill, a resident of McClaren Street, spoke at the Sept. 14 meeting during which the revised ordinance was unanimously adopted. He said he is concerned the regulations put the onus on the property owner, not the tagger. Hypothetically, he said, if his property is defaced, the person who broke the law could be caught and potentially fined, with the money going into the Graffiti Trust Fund. “And I’m still stuck with clean- ing off my fence,” Hill said, but “I don’t have the income to fix it.”

“That strikes me as a bit (of) an imbalance,” he noted. “The wrong person is going to pay for this.”

In the case of minors involved in graffiti, the council determined that parents will be held responsible for the removal costs.

Other Borough Business

At the Sept. 14 meeting the council also discussed standard height restrictions for building development along the borough’s waterfront area. The borough wants to ensure building and landscape heights don’t impact river views.

Borough engineer Ed Herrmann reviewed the maximum structure height for the waterfront zone. In a letter attached to the meeting’s agenda packet, he cited certain discrepancies in elevation standards that need to be updated. Under the current definition, the allowable building heights could be up to 65 feet, Herrmann said.

He has recommended modifying the allowable building height to 50 feet or five stories, based on his survey and some guidelines in the 1995 Master Plan for the Waterfront Development District. “Because of the unique characteristics of developing along the river’s edge, where all sides of a building must appear as the ‘front’ and where the public desires view and access to the river, very special zoning conditions must apply. These conditions must give guidance to both the land uses and the physical pattern of development,” the plan reads.

A public hearing for the matter is scheduled for Oct. 12, pending planning board review.

The article originally appeared in the September 28 – October 4, 2023 print edition of The Two River Times.

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