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Death of Popular Planning Board Chair Leaves Major Void

Bob Colonna Passed Away Dec. 20th, Leaving Behind Two Young Children
Bob Colonna
Bob Colonna chaired a crucial meeting of the New Brunswick Planning Board just 8 days before his death. Charlie Kratovil

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—At tonight's Planning Board meeting, the nine-member board will go through the annual ritual of choosing one of their own to chair their important monthly meetings.

For the past two years, the board unanimously chose Robert John Colona, known to most as "Bob," a friendly fellow who was very active in the city's government and local politics, also serving his city as a member of the Citizens Taxi Service Council and the Environmental Commission.

Colona, who made his living working with Middlesex County's Division of Weights & Measures, passed away suddenly on December 20 in New Brunswick, leaving behind a wife, two young sons, and countless friends and supporters.

He had just chaired the Planning Board meeting eight days earlier, when they voted to approve massive changes to Rutgers University's College Avenue campus.

For some, the void left by his passing will never be filled.  But the powerful Planning Board. which makes decisions about what types of buildings can be built in each part of the city, will have no choice but to replace him this evening.

The Planning Board currently includes Mayor James Cahill, his aide Kevin Jones,Councilwoman Elizabeth "Betsy" Garlatti, as well as Thomas Valenti, Linda Hunter, Dave Fitzhenry, Maria Torrisi, Suzanne Ludwig, and Anthony Barber.  Each stands at least a hypothetical chance of being named the next chair of the board.

Additionally, Luis Berrios is listed as an alternate member of the Planning Board, according to the city's directory of boards and commissions.

Colona's term on the Planning Board was not due to expire until the end of 2013.  That means Mayor Cahill will have to select a different member of the city's Environmental Commission, another mayor-appointed board, to serve out the remainder of Colonna's term.

Colonna was also elected to represent his neighborhood as a Democratic Committeeman, handily defeating a challenger by a vote of 83-23 in 2009 and running uncontested for the post in 2011.

Originally from South River, Colonna moved to New Brunswick twenty years ago according to his obituary.