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To Know The Road Ahead, Ask Those Coming Back -Confucius
VScope Archives
SEWERS AND WATER...(reprint, 2000 editorial)

Vernon's Sewer Plan, 2004

Vernon's Water/Sewer Issues

The Kind Of Growth You Always Wanted...

THREE THINGS... (2004 editorial)

On Nov. 2, Go Vote!

10/30/04 By now you must have decided which U.S. Presidential candidate represents your best hopes for the future.

Polls open at 6 AM and close at 8 PM.

Don't let anybody or anything keep you away from voting in this General Election.


Gov. McGreevey Resigns, Admits He Is Gay, Had Secret Affair

8/12/04  At 4:00 p.m. today, Gov. James McGreevey made the stunning announcement that he is gay and had been involved in an adulterous affair with another man. The governor apologized to his wife and parents for hurting them by his "inexcusable" extramarital affair.

Then, piling shock upon shock, McGreevey went on to announce that he would resign effective Nov. 15 to spare the governor's office from "rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure."

It was later learned that the mystery man in the affair, whom McGreevey did not identify, is an Israeli national named Golan Cipel, a former aide who resigned two years ago after his qualifications to be the governor's homeland security advisor were shot down.

It has been alleged that Cipel was attempting to extort money from McGreevey, which allegations are currently under federal investigation, and that he had made known his intentions to file a sexual harassment suit on Aug. 13 in Superior Court, Mercer County.

When McGreevey steps down in November, NJ's Acting Governor for the remainder of McGreevey's term (ends Jan. 2006) will be Richard Codey (D - Essex), Democratic president of the NJ Senate.

Some members of NJ's political cognoscenti immediately claimed that they had known about McGreevey's secret all along, but to most Jerseyans the whole resignation/gay thing was a bolt from the blue.

Yet another entry in the miserable political annals of New Jersey, a state where - as a popular t-shirt proclaims - Only The Strong Survive.

Highlands Bill Passed

6/11/04  The NJ state legislature has passed the Highlands bill, which - to the chagrin of real estate developers and Home Rulers - will create a powerful regional council with veto power over all development in appx. 400,000 acres of NJ's northern highlands.
The protected acreage encompasses streams and reservoirs which are the source of drinking water for millions of state residents.
In 2002, state planners reported that NJ was losing 18,000 acres of land per year to commercial and residential construction - to suburban sprawl , as it were.
Correspondingly, the state was being deforested, and water statewide was being contaminated and depleted.
Consciousness of "sprawl" and its environmental consequences triggered greater public efforts to put the brakes on rampant development. Voters in many northern NJ towns approved local farmland/open space preservation programs, but sparing selected farms and wetland areas from development did not divert public attention from the catastrophic environmental damage wrought by developing the unprotected surroundings.
The Highlands bill was passed (69 to 10 in the Assembly, 34 to 2 in the Senate) into state law despite the furious opposition of northwestern NJ's developer/politician axis, whose representatives fought long and continuously to protect the fortunes of real estate developers.

McGreevey's Plan For Property Tax Relief

5/3/04  Last Thursday,in a special session of both chambers of the NJ legislature, Governor McGreevey delivered his proposals for property tax relief.

The Governor proposed raising income taxes for the state's 28,500 wealthy households (i.e., households whose members earn more than $500,000.) to finance larger property tax rebates for the state's 2,000,000 households with incomes below $200,000.

The Governor also urged lawmakers to cut from 6 percent to 3 per cent the amounts of surplus that school districts can hold without returning money to taxpayers.

McGreevey additionally proposed a state constitutional convention to revamp NJ's property tax system.

The League of Municipalities, an organization which represents the interests of New Jersey's cities and towns, issued a statement that called McGreevey's proposals "true property tax reform."

The $800 million collected by raising income taxes for the state's wealthiest households will land in middle class taxpayers' mailboxes as part of the NJ SAVER and Homestead Rebate programs, McGreevey said, predicting that 93 per cent of the state's property taxpayers would get larger rebates.

How about this instead of larger rebates: Just Abolish The Property Tax.

Top NJ Court: Twp's Appeal Denied,
Black Creek Historic Designation OK'd

4/19/04  The NJ appellate court has denied Vernon Twp's appeal of NJDEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell's April 1,2002 decision to designate all 40 acres of the Black Creek site for inclusion on the State Register of Historic Places.

The TC's appeal hinged on four acres that were not included in former DEP Commissioner Robert Shinn's historic designation of the Black Creek site in January 2002, but had thereafter been submitted for state review and were ultimately included in Campbell's nomination of the entire 40 acres.

Campbell signed the nomination just moments before a 4/1/02 Vernon TC meeting whose purpose was to award construction contracts for building on the site.

The state's appellate judges ruled that Commissioner Campbell had properly exercised his authority in accordance with applicable law.

It happens that the TC's appeal, a last ditch attempt to undo NJ's official designation of the Black Creek historical site, also marks the first time a town in the U.S. ever appealed the nomination of an historic site within its borders.

The Black Creek site, long recognized as a treasure trove of cultural artifacts spanning thousands of years, is part of the 182-acre Maple Grange property which was purchased by the township for over $984,000. back in 2000. The Maple Grange property was to become public parkland, using $1.2 mil bonded for that purpose.

Plans for the park became mired in controversy when the TC set out to build ballfields right on top of the historic Native American archaeological site.

The TC's campaign to obstruct state recognition of the Black Creek site intensified when, as a result of quick action by archaeologist and Vernon resident Rick Patterson, a court injunction issued by Superior Court Judge Kenneth McKenzie around noontime on May 23, 2001 stopped the TC-ordered bulldozing of the site known to contain significant artifacts in great quantity.
By then, Township machinery had dug a 215- ft. long, 16-ft wide swath through the portion of the property which contains artifacts spanning 10,000 years of Native American habitation.
Judge McKenzie noted that consideration of the town's equipment rental cost (town's argument) was outweighed by the cost of "irreparable harm" which would result if construction were allowed to continue at the historic site.

But the injunction did not preclude the town from constructing ballfields on the non-historic portion -i.e., the other 143 acres - of Maple Grange.

Meanwhile, the TC ordered the entire park closed to the public, and on May 30 two local newspaper reporters/photographers who tried to take pictures of the bulldozing aftermath were issued summonses. Rick Patterson, who accompanied the newsies to the site that day, was also issued a summons.

According to a 5/31 article in The Advertiser-News, Vernon Mayor John Logan said that the twp. had purposely sent out the bulldozers to the artifacts fields in expectation of legal action.
Logan also reiterated the TC's commitment to "put ballfields on this site."

If their published statements are any guide, TC members pushed the notion that an elaborate archaeological hoax was being perpetrated by archaeologist Rick Patterson and a tiny band (Native Americans, local historic preservationists,archaeologists, members of the working press, etc. etc.) whose great purpose in life was to prevent ballfield construction in Vernon NJ.

In July 2002 the TC filed a motion to have archaeologist Rick Patterson held in contempt of court and to bar him and the LenniLenape from "interfering" with the TC's construction plans for rec fields and a cell tower on the rest of the Maple Grange property. Evidently the TC felt that Paterson's public criticism of the twp.'s development plans had somehow violated the judge's order allowing the twp. to develop its non-historic acreage.
On August 27, the judge ruled against the TC, saying that Patterson did not violate the court's order by telling the media and the government about what the town was doing on the rest of the Maple Grange property.

MacKenzie's ruling thwarted the TC's bid to silence the plaintiffs' free speech ["interference"] regarding Vernon Township's plans for building a cell tower, rec fields, etc. on the land.

After that, the TC tried long and continuously to discredit Rick Patterson, the LenniLenape, and anyone who actively supported historic designation of the Black Creek site, which contains some of the most important historic artifacts in the nation.
To that end, in June 2002 the TC decided to retain ($44,722.00) an archaeological consulting firm of its own choosing to dig "test pits" on the Black Creek site. In August 2002,LaPorta&Associates of Warwick, NY performed a two-day backhoe dig of 10 "test pits" at the Maple Grange property.
The dig immediately unearthed yet more artifacts -evidence that indeed there had been significant Native American cultural activity on the site.

Throughout much of 2002, a groundswell of taxpayer opposition and public petitioning thwarted a series of the TC's proposed bonding ordinances to provide financing for construction of sports facilities on the twp.'s Maple Grange parkland.

In the end, and after three unsuccessful tries to put over various ballfield-bonding schemes, the TC rescinded its ordinance vote (thus avoiding a referendum showdown at the public polls in Nov. 2002), and disclosed that other plans involving a land swap for Maple Grange were already afoot.

In 2003, the TC announced a plan to swap 143 acres of Maple Grange property for 132 acres of Van Dokkenburg's farm, arguing that the VanD farmland would be more suitable for future construction of multiple ballfields.

It was soon learned that there were - and still are - a variety of troublous issues surrounding such a swap.

All things reconsidered, the TC might well decide to build ballfields on the large portion of Maple Grange land that is not part of the designated Black Creek historical site. For the past four years, that alternative was always available as a means of satisfying ballfield construction supporters and Black Creek preservation supporters alike.

School Election April 20

4/17/04 The polls will be open in Vernon from 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on April 20, 2004 for the local school election. Voters will accept or reject the following proposal: "Resolved, That there shall be raised for the General Fund $31,968,304.00 for the ensuing school year 2004-2005."

Here are the candidates for three 3-year terms on the Vernon Twp. Board of Education:
Howard J. Whidden, Jr.
John McGowan
Thomas J. Papa

4/21/04 Resolution approved. All the above candidates elected.

Vernon Updates Natural Resource Inventory

4/12/04  [Vernon Twp. Environmental Commission press release]
"Did you ever wonder why Vernon is the way it is? Why is there abundant water in some places and not others. Why the valley? Why the ridge? Why are things where they are? Why, why, why??? There are many reasons and answers to these questions. Most are based on the natural gifts and constraints of this place we call Vernon. In an effort to clarify the information and the answers to many of these questions, the Vernon Township Environmental Commission has undertaken the task of updating our Natural Resource Inventory (NRI). One of our main goals is to make the information visual, understandable and accessible to anyone at Vernon's web site. To that end, we are presenting our progress to the public at a special meeting on Tuesday, April 20th at 7:30 PM at the Vernon Municipal Center Meeting Room. The Updated NRI is funded by a matching grant from the Association of the New Jersey Environmental Commissions."

Battle for The Highlands Begins

3/14/04 Proposed state legislation creating a regional planning council with veto power over development projects in NJ's environmentally sensitive Highlands area is expected to meet with furious opposition from developers and the state's Home Rule warlords.
The Highlands battleground covers 350,000 acres of watershed land in Morris, Passaic and Sussex.

See also: Godspeed

Sierra Club Sues NJ Office of State Planning Over Vernon, Sparta "Town Center" Designations

1/17/04  The NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club has appealed to the Appellate Division of the NJ Supreme Court to overturn the state planning board's town center designations for Sparta and Vernon.

If the Sierra Club prevails it will be a major financial setback for both town governments, whose plans for growth hinge on using public money available to NJ municipalities with designated town centers (e.g., Municipal Wastewater Assistance Program; NJDOT Transportation Enhancements program; The Transportation Trust Fund: Local Aid for Centers grant program for non-traditional transportation projects; Main Street NJ Program; Green Acres and Recreational Opportunities Program; etc. etc.)

It is believed that confining growth to the state's designated town centers will reduce suburban sprawl. In the future, an increasing number of state agency programs intend to give priority points to applications submitted by municipalities with designated town centers.

Such grants of public money are supposed to be in return for greater efficiency in serving the public, reducing costs for tax payers, providing greater protection of environmentally sensitive resources, increasing local business, and lowering housing costs.

Vernon's town center project consists of a "dual center" plan , which will flank Mountain Creek's large-scale resort/luxury residential development and village center at Hamburg Mountain with (1) a town center in downtown Vernon, and with (2) a McAfee town center.

According to NJ Sierra director Jeff Tittel, neither Vernon nor Sparta followed the procedure required for town center designation.
Officials in both towns claim they did everything right.
As ever, the court will eventually decide.

2004 Has Begun

1/10/04 The new year slouched in during a post-Christmas heat wave but, lest ice skaters and ice fishermen and fuel oil companies despair, temperatures finally dropped to the single-digits in the second week of January.

Members of the Town Council (Ira Weiner, Janet Morrison, Neil Desmond, Phil Weiler, and Jeff Patterson) held their reorganization meeting on Jan. 5 and selected Ira Weiner to be Mayor, and Janet Morrison to be Deputy Mayor. An assortment of state and county G.O.P. bigs turned up for photo-ops with the town's all-Republican council.

Joseph Ragno was appointed as municipal attorney, James Sloan as public defender, Anthony Arbore as municipal prosecutor, Charles Ferraioli as municipal auditor and John Kraft as bond counsel.

The following TC board appointments were also made:
Zoning Board: Glen McLaughlin, Warren Olsen
Planning Board: Richard Spoerl, Ira Weiner (tc), Don Teolis (twp. manager),Phil Weiler (tc), Edward DeYoung, Erik Knight
Environmental Commission: Craig Williams, Debra Perry, non-voting member Kendra Schirmer
Senior Citizen Committee: Elizabeth Glass
Historic Preservation Committee: Coster Gerard, Ferrier Martin, Chris Hanke, Donna Wilson, Denise Stone
Farmland/Open Space Preservation Advisory Commission (FOSPAC): Gary Gardner, Andy Borisuk, Joel Schlesinger

Police Chief Roy Wherry was appointed as emergency management coordinator, Maser Consulting was appointed as township engineer, and Fred Suljic was appointed as part-time planner.

All best wishes to the TC and its appointees.

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

- 30 -


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