Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Appeal letter on its way to New Jersey Department of Transportation

TEWKSBURY TWP. –Almost two years and $50,000 later, the Friends of Cold Brook Historic District are furious that the Johnson & Johnson helipad received the go-ahead from New Jersey Department of Transportation, and want the Tewksbury Township Committee to do something about it.

At a meeting of the Township Committee on Tuesday, July 9, Chris Kennedy of Homestead Road presented the Township Committee with a letter of reason from the Johnsons lawyer to the DOT Commissioner Jim Simpson.

Prior to Kennedy’s presentation Deputy Mayor Dana Desiderio recused herself and left the room.

Misleading The DOT

According to Kennedy, someone must be misleading the DOT and Simpson because there was a lot of evidence and facts the Historic District battle for, and it seems like they have just been disregarded.

“The judge at the DOT requested a statement of reasons during the application process,” Kennedy said, “Upon which the DOT made the decision to approve the license. The response you have in front of you is ridiculously self-justifying. It seems to have purposely omitted key facts which if disclosed would have swayed the ruling. The DOT’s conclusion was that the matter was not a contested case. It seems completely irrational.”

The Friends have appealed the decision of the DOT, and want to see the injustice of their local rights being taken away stopped.

“Our concerns continue to escalate,” Kennedy said, “As the state proceeds to establish a habit of overruling the authority of appointed local officials, this is just another example. Recently it was the application for the power station. You have heard in previous meetings and subsequent to the building of the power station that decision has come down to be an environmental nightmare that seems to have no end. A lot of people in Tewksbury say well I don’t live by the substation or helipad, why should I be concerned? Well that could be them next. They don’t understand it.”

Kennedy urged Mayor Louis DiMare to write Simpson and the DOT a letter citing why the decision should be appealed.

“The commissioner has obviously not been listening to the people,” Kennedy said, “Trying to get this overturned seems insurmountable at this point, but at least take the shot.”

George Cassa of Guinea Hollow Road supported Kennedy’s request but wanted to urge the committee to look at the issue from the point of view of the letter.

“I want to know whether there are any misstatements of facts or law that need to be refuted to the judge,” Cassa said.

DiMare responded that they are not involved in the litigation so he wouldn’t want to take it to that level.

Cassa countered and asked if there was anyway the township could confirm that a misstatement has been made.

“What I’m concerned about is that there has been this effort put forth to defend the town and it seems to have been completely overridden,” Cassa said.

Finish the Job

Larry Ross of Homestead Road: asked the Township Committee to let the mayor finish the job he started.

“To date Lou has managed to persuade the commissioner to eliminate night flights,” Ross said, “Now the mayor wants to finish what he started by doing the most logical thing, get the DOT to put a cap on the number of flights per month.”

According to Ross, a director of the Jockey Hollow Club told him that the helipad is being set up next to what sounds like luxury accommodations. Ross urged the committee to check into the zoning of that because he doesn’t believe they have any permits.

DiMare said he would have no problem writing the letter but wanted the opinion of the committee. Peter Melick said he opposed the committee getting involved in the first place so he was opposed to the letter.

Shaun Van Doren and William Voyce favored sending Simpson a letter.

According to Township Attorney Michael Selvaggi, there was no downside to writing the letter, and the worst that would happen would be the DOT ignore the letter.

The mayor concluded that he will write a letter to the commissioner and give him a call to let him know it was coming; a courtesy Simpson had extended to him in the past.


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