Sept. 2 to Dec. 26, 2001 Local News

Lords Of The Manor?
Vernon TC Wants Its Plans For Municipal Turf To Be Exempt From Local Codes
12/16/01  VWeb Tyrants editorial

In towns all across the U.S., nothing raises the ire of local citizens more than a communication tower facility application at or near a residential area, a high-end commercial district, or a town landmark. Municipal governments, who have a say in the siting of tower facilities, usually dislike the idea that their local codes and procedures - to say nothing of their constituents' wellbeing, property values and community landscape aesthetics - are less important than the monopole-siting needs of telecommunications companies.

Such elected municipal officials, duty-bound to protect the public trust , would bridle at any suggestion that the interests of telecommunications applicants were good cause to eliminate the procedural due process by which all construction applicants must abide.

Government officeholders in Vernon, however, want to dispense with due process procedures and expedite development by exempting all projects on municipally owned properties from the requirements of local planning and zoning codes.

Such an exemption would clear the way for telecom applicants, or any other applicants, to build whatever they like on town-owned property at the sole discretion of municipal officeholders.

Such a "town exemption" ordinance is intentionally unresponsive to the public, and it has aroused great concern in residential communities where telecoms have already drawn a bead on town-owned parcels. The proviso that town-owned land be used for "municipal purposes" (e.g., land leases that make money for the town) can not justify depriving Vernon residents of their legal right to object to unregulated development in their neighborhoods.

Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, municipalities nationwide have passed zoning and land use regulations governing wireless communication facilities. Not easy, but worth the effort - clarity and practical application of well-planned regulations can insure fairness to municipal constituents and the telecom industry alike. For example, a municipality might find that high tension electric power line areas are more acceptable to the public as "permitted use" areas for tower facilities. Designating the location or collocation of antennas on such existing tall structures as "permitted uses" in local codes might reasonably provide the telecommunication companies sufficient options for siting tower facilities - without facing a long, drawn-out review by a planning or zoning board.

Should it seek a permit to build in any other area, the company might be required to provide proof that it is unable to locate its tower facility within one of the "permitted use" areas in the local code.

Telecom corporations have spent untold millions on FCC licenses alone. It is foolish to think that any of those companies will sit still once one of their competitors gets approval to put up a monopole on town-owned land. It is also foolish to think that local citizens will sit still for a blight of monopoles affecting their property and the local quality-of-life values they hold in common. Both forces - telecoms and local citizens -are here to stay, God willing.

And it has been amply shown that, if their rights are disregarded by the municipal government, neither of those forces will hesitate to turn to the courts for a remedy.

Surely a competent local government would take pains to hammer out a clear and practical code, one which does not discriminate against either the rights of the telecoms to do business or the rights of local citizens to expect responsive local government and due process protections.

Vernon twp. is one tower short of a fully functional police communications system. Vernon officials have been frustrated in their efforts to accommodate commercial telecom towers offering police communication transmission at no extra charge. In due procedural course, the proposed tower sites in residential areas were defeated by formidable grassroots opposition at public hearings held by the town government. The Town Council 's exemption ordinance would end public hearings applicable to any projects on town-owned land, but would not end public opposition to towers or other projects inimical to the wellbeing of citizens in the affected community.

Despite the fact that it has already been rejected by the township's Planning Board, the Town Exemption ordinance is scheduled to be taken up at the TC's December 27, 2001(8:00 pm. Muni Bldg) meeting.

[12/17/01 Note: alert Newsbeaks point out that the ordinance was initially rejected by the PB, but a second try added a requirement to notify adjoining property owners (who would still have no legal right to object), the other a sunset provision (exemption ordinance would be up for renewal in 4 years).
Both additions are attempts to paint a rotten apple.
The revised ordinance received the OK of the PB, with three members dissenting: Pfeiffer, Wheaton and Emilius.

Approval of this ham-fisted ordinance would unleash a hellbroth of litigation .

It would clarify nothing except the current Town Council 's desire to be a law unto itself, unhindered by democratic processes and insulated against legitimate public scrutiny.

It would profit no one but the lawyers whose incomes it would assure for many years to come.


12/5/01 Today the Black Creek Native American Artifacts Site in Vernon was deemed an historic place by the NJ State Historic Preservation Office.
State historians voted 6-2 that the Black Creek site is worthy of historic preservation, a decision in line with the evidence presented by Vernon resident and archaeologist Rick Patterson (shown here with the now-famous effigy stone, one of thousands of Native American artifacts found at the Black Creek site over the years) and local historic preservationists.

The final decision is to be made within 45 days by NJDEP Commissioner Robert Shinn.

Vernon's elected officials were not pleased at the outcome of the 3-hour meeting, where Vernon Mayor John Logan told the review board he was present to represent "my tribe, the 25,000 residents of Vernon whose long-awaited park would be deeply impacted by this decision."

Logan said he would continue to fight against historic designation of the site and it's listing on the Register of Historic Places.

A 25,000 member Tribe? Shouldn't someone notify the Bureau of Indian Affairs? Do we still have to pay taxes out here on the Rez?


Change Of Twp. Park Plan Designers

11/29/01 The TC was presented with a choice of two firms to be hired for the final design of the Maple Grange park. Twp. Manager Meredith Robson recommended keeping the firm of Melillo and Bauer on the case because they have done all the work so far and are recognized experts in the field of park design. The TC decided to follow Mayor Logan's recommendation to pick Masur Consulting , who are the twp.'s consulting engineers and who underbid Melillo and Bauer by about $20,000.


Bill Sponsored By Littell Would Let Town Pols Veto Historic Designation
Move Comes On Eve Of State's Black Creek Decision

11/29/01 The NJ Senate will vote on a bill giving veto power to municipalities who want keep their town-owned real estate safe from historic preservation .

The Senate reluctantly agreed to entertain the bill in deference to its sponsor, Sen. Robert Littell (R, Franklin),who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill was most emphatically not endorsed by the Senate Environmental Committee.

Littell was reportedly the only person to testify on behalf of his proposed legislation.

In his remarks, Littell made reference to Indians holding the Vernon government "hostage" in the matter of the Black Creek site, a widely recognized locus of Native American artifacts dating back thousands of years. The site, part of town-owned (purchased last year) real estate now known as Maple Grange Community Park, stands a good chance of being designated as an Historic Place by the State Historic Preservation Office, which is expected to decide the matter at its Dec. 5, 2001 meeting.


PB Rejects TC's "Town Exemption" Bid

11/29/01 The TC wants an ordinance "exempting township facilities on lands in which the township of Vernon has a property interest from municipal zoning requirements."

The ordinance, approved by the TC on first reading, would allow the township to exempt itself from planning and zoning rules , building specifications, and all requirements re: public notices and hearings.
In short, the township could build just about whatever they want wherever they want, in disregard of affected communities , and would be above the zoning laws applied to all other property owners.

Representatives of Vernon's residential community organizations made it plain that PB approval of the carte blanche "town exemption" ordinance would be extremely ill-advised.

In the end, PB members were persuaded that the Vernon public would take a dim view of giving the township carte blanche to build municipal facilities (garages, cellular towers, dumps, sewers, etc.) in residential neighborhoods .


TC Told: Geologist's Resume Contained False Info

11/21/01  During the public segment of Monday's TC meeting, Vernon residents Rick Patterson and Jessi Paladini rose to say that Philip LaPorta, the Warwick NY geologist who was chosen by the TC to conduct a $40k study of the Black Creek site, appears to have fudged certain credentials, qualifications, memberships and awards listed in his professional resume.

Paterson and Paladini also faulted twp. attorney Joseph Ragno for informing Superior Court Judge MacKenzie that, as to determining the site's historical significance, LaPorta was an acceptable expert according to the state - an assertion which appears to have been in excess of the facts according to the state's Historic Preservation Office.

The TC is to look into the matters raised by Paterson and Paladini, who said they also intend to have LaPorta charged with perjury for giving false information on his resume and for falsifying his deposition.


Vernon Twp., Sussex County On DEP Drought Warning List

11/22/01  The NJ DEP has issued a drought warning to Vernon Twp. and most towns in Sussex County, where aquifers have been hit hard by the lack of rainfall this year.

In October, as part of a statewide drought watch, all NJ residents were asked to be more conservative re: water use.

This week's drought warning means that the state can restrict industrial use of water. It also means that, in water-depleted areas, the state can shift water from one reservoir to another where needed.

Earlier this month the Delaware River Basin Commission cut back on the river water used by certain NY and NJ localities.

Climatologists have noted that the present drought is a re-run of the 1998-99 drought and that a series of heavy, ground-penetrating rainstorms is needed right about now to prevent a drought emergency.

It is expected that the NJDEP will hold hearings in December to determine whether or not further water use restrictions will be necessary.


Town Boards Looking For A Few Good Volunteers

11/20/01 Press Release from Mayor Logan 
The Vernon Township Council is looking for volunteers to fill openings in various township boards, including Planning, Zoning, Historic Preservation, Recreation, Environmental, Farmland Preservation and Senior Citizen. Most boards meet only 1-2 times per month. Qualifications needed include an optimistic viewpoint, a belief in a balanced vision for Vernon's future, a willingness to learn, and a desire to serve your community. Please send a brief letter outlining your background and experiences relevent to the specific board in which you have an interest. Letters should be sent by mid-December to the Vernon Town Clerk at PO Box 340, Vernon, 07462.


TC To NJ: We Oppose Black Creek Site Preservation

11/12/01  Last week the Vernon Town Council passed a resolution opposing the historic designation of the Black Creek site, a matter which is expected to be decided by the NJ State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) next month. The Black Creek site, viewed by archaeologists as a significant historical location containing artifacts of a Native American occupation spanning thousands of years, is part of the 180 acres purchased by the town for a public recreational park. The artifacts fields are viewed by town officials as the property's most suitable terrain for ballfields . Although few believe that the TC's position will influence the SHPO's decision re: the Black Creek site, several TC members said they felt it was important to clarify their position (i.e., that the site should not be preserved as an Historic Place) for the record.


Nov. 6, 2001 Election

Nov. 6 General Election
Election Results
(link to vote tallies on Sussex County clerk's site)

The winners in this year's election for two seats on the Vernon Town Council are:

Republican Neil Desmond
Republican Greg Haines

The winners in this year's election for two seats on the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders are:

Republican Jo Ann D'Angeli
Republican Hal Wirths


Breakneck Road Project On Hold

10/28/01  Planned repair and resurfacing of Breakneck Road has been put off until next year because the sole bidder wanted over $1 million to do the job.


PB Gives Thumbs Up to MC Site Plan

10/28/01  The PB has approved the final site plan for MC/IW's Appalachian Lodge (105 unit hotel), which will feature a pool, conference center, restaurant, coffee shop, bank, general store, 4300 sq. ft. of retail space, underground parking lot, etc. etc. It is the second (first was Phase One of the Black Creek Sanctuary housing development)of many Mountain Creek construction plans coming down the PB approval pipeline . Ground breaking for the lodge construction is expected in the spring, provided various agency approvals have been obtained..


Veterans Memorial Rededication Ceremony, U.S. Flag Tribute To Be Held This Month In Vernon

10/2/01  On October 13, 2001 at 9:00 a.m. sharp, a rededication of the Veterans Monument - including a tribute to the U.S. Flag - will be conducted by Vernon VFW Post 8441 and Exempt Firemen's Assoc. at Veterans Memorial Park on Vernon Crossing Rd. (RT 644), Vernon, NJ.
More info on BeThere.


Ecumenical Prayer Service To Be Held In Vernon


9/17/01 An Ecumenical Service of Prayer and Remembrance, conducted by Vernon Clergy, will be held on the one week anniversary of the World Trade Center Attack this Tuesday evening 9/18 outside at the Mountain Creek Main lodge (North Lodge) plaza behind the tent buildings.
The service will begin at 7:00 PM. A limited number of chairs will be available, so those planning on attending are encouraged to bring blankets to sit on, as well as candles and small American Flags.
This service will offer an opportunity for residents to come together to heal and gain strength for the future.


9/17/01 

Notice

- donations of material goods are no longer being accepted at the below listed drop-off locations in Vernon.

Owing to the tremendous public response, relief organizations have run out of NYC storage space and are requesting financial donations, not material supplies, from the public.


9/17/01In the days following the terrorist attack on our nation, four truckloads of donated supplies were transported from Vernon to NYC in aid of the WTC rescuers.

WTC Relief Effort DRIVE


9/14/01

The Vernon Chamber of Commerce is coordinating a drive for material goods to be brought into the relief effort in NY. The following items are being requested and can be dropped off Fri., Sat., and Sun. at:
Gross & Jansen Century 21: 9am-6pm
Mountain Creek Discovery Center: 11-5
Vernon PAL: anytime

  • Bottled Water, Juice Paks
  • Peanut Butter, Bread
  • Rain gear, tarpaulins
  • Men's underwear, socks, pants and shirts, sweats
  • Blankets
  • Work gloves, goggles
  • Batteries
  • Cell phone batteries and or chargers
  • Individual servings of non-perishable foods & snacks (nothing needing a can opener) ie: fruit cups, pasta, soup, power bars etc.

For further information please contact the Vernon Chamber at 973-764-0764


September 11, 2001


Day Of Infamy


A Time.com Special Report : The Day Of The Attack




[Past News Dec.2000 to August 2001]

TC Continues News Blackout Of Geologist's Report

9/8/01 Town-hired geologist Phil LaPorta's backhoe scooped up ancient artifacts galore at the Black Creek site, and the TC's August 29 deadline for receiving LaPorte's report was met, but the TC is withholding the report from public scrutiny on advice of twp. attorney Joseph Ragno.

The NJ Historic Preservation Office is scheduled to decide, at their Sept. 12 meeting, whether or not to recommend that the state DEP include the site on the NJ Historic Register.

Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Littell confirmed that a meeting had been arranged between township officials and DEP Commissioner Robert C. Shinn to discuss the matter prior to the Historic Preservation Office action.

There was some speculation that (a) the Littell-referenced meeting would take place tomorrow or Monday and (b) the Hist. Pres. Ofc. meeting, or at least its decision about recommending the Black Creek site to the DEP for inclusion on the state Historic Register, might be postponed.

Speculation has been further sparked by twp. attorney Joseph Ragno's reported comments to the effect that, according to the unreleased LaPorta findings, the studied area was not a long-time village.This would seem to contradict the observations of archaeology professionals who were present for the backhoe dig and reported examining an extraordinarily high concentration of artifacts consistent with thousands of years of continuous Native American habitation at the site. Ragno also commented that no burial ground was unearthed at the tested site, but archaeological experts noted that such information would have no effect on the site's already established qualifications as an historic place.

The first test shovelful of the earth excavated from the first trench - appx. 3% of the tested area - contained 42 artifacts. Sifting through isolated shovelfuls of cultural material extracted from various big heaps of dug up soil is evidently not a respected methodology in archaeology circles. It is probably fair to note that professional archaeologists viewed the backhoe geological study as a crude, superfluous and unnecessarily destructive endeavor.

Whatever else the LaPorta report (sources said it is about 23 pages long, plus one or two pages of conclusions) contains, it is a certainty that the town-ordered backhoe exercise verified the presence of artifacts in plenty, confirming over a decade of well-known Black Creek site findings registered by archaeologist and Vernon NJ resident Rick Patterson.


Weekend NewsNotes
Scanning The Local News 9/2/01
Auto Theft Ends In Crash
On Friday at 5:25 a.m., a Barry Lakes resident called police to report that she heard a noise outside her Wawayanda Rd. home and had observed someone driving away in her '99 Toyota SUV. She had left the keys in the vehicle. Police spotted the stolen SUV, which had been wrecked after hitting a phone pole, a stone wall and several trees in proximity to the intersection of Canistear Road and Breakneck Road in Highland Lakes. Witnesses at the gas station said they saw two males running from the SUV into the woods. Police efforts (including K-9 unit) to find the two suspects were unavailing. Police said they believed that the suspects were injured. VWeb Newsbeaks who were out at 7:30 a.m. buying rolls& coffee at Lake Wanda Store, which faces the Canistear/Breakneck intersection, reported seeing blood near the wrecked SUV when they went over to talk to police who were investigating at the scene.
Maple Grange
Still no official word re: geologist Phil LaPorta's report to the TC concerning his study of the artifacts site at Maple Grange.
Breakneck Rd. Makeover
Breakneck Road is to undergo $600,000. worth of improvements. The work is expected to begin next month. Motorists will be encouraged to use Rt. 638 for the duration of the project. The town has received $500,000 from NJDOT, adding to $140,000. previously received from the state to fund the Breakneck Road improvement project.

What do you think? Read your neighbors' opinions on VWebVoice.


There are two rules for ultimate success in life:
1. Never tell everything you know.

- 30 -


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