“Time has proven Andy right”

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:01

    To the editor: It’s been said that hindsight is always 20-20. As voters this November, our challenge is to elect leaders with wisdom, honesty, openness and hopefully, 20-20 foresight. Back in March 2002, the State of New Jersey was offering Green Acres money to large land owners all over the state; it was tightening restrictions on large-scale developments, especially those on steep slopes, near wetlands or close to private wells; and the Highlands Act, which would further restrict development, was also in the works. At the same time, some in West Milford were dreaming of building golf courses, hotels and resorts. Unfortunately, the site proposed for development had three deadly strikes against it, from the state’s perspective: 1. Because the property contained vernal pools and two Category One streams (feeding two reservoirs), the state-mandated 300-foot “no build” buffers on either side of each stream rendered vast amounts of the property completely unbuildable. 2. Considerable wetlands and steep slopes rendered even more of the property unbuildable, effectively sinking any hopes of large-scale development. 3. The final nail in the coffin was the large number of private homeowner wells surrounding the property. Fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide run-off from large developments and golf courses, has a documented history of permanently poisoning homeowners’ drinking water wells in other communities. So even if the Highlands Act had not passed, any large development plans were clearly doomed from the outset. Unfortunately, considerable taxpayer money had been spent on the pursuit, including over $1 million to repair a nameless dam. However, when members of the Open Space Committee and Environmental Commission dared to suggest a Plan B (selling to open space while Green Acres could still buy at higher, pre-Highlands Act prices), they were eventually fired and the Open Space Committee, dissolved. It took a few strong leaders, like Councilman Andrew Gargano, to stand up, face reality, and ink a deal with Green Acres, before the Highlands Act further deflated its value. In the process, Andy also managed to secure recreational access for West Milford residents at the former Jungle Habitat site. Time has proven Andy right in his decision. The Highlands Act did come to pass; Green Acres money is finite and grows smaller with each passing year; and thanks to quick action, the property was assessed at the higher pre-Highlands Act value. I respect Andy and others for making smart decisions, standing up to relentless political and legal pressure, and remaining open to the general public throughout the entire process. People like Andy Gargano and Paul Marino, whom I also know and respect, are men of integrity. I know Paul to be an intelligent, hard-working supporter of community and school sports with great courage and generosity. He has served on the ambulance squad, opened his home to the Fresh Air Fund and even raised Seeing Eye dogs. Paul, like Andy, possesses the leadership skills to make the right calls for us, even under extreme pressure. Equally important, I trust Paul and Andy to continue the recent progress made by Councilmen Warden and Nolan, making local government more open and accountable to the taxpayers of West Milford. Their commitments to improved quality of life, stabilization of taxes and open, honest government are unwavering. Please join me in electing Andy Gargano and Paul Marino to the West Milford Town Council. Don Weise West Milford