Vote “no” on ballot question #1; vote “no” on Scangarello

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:59

    To the editor: On election day, West Milford residents who care about our environment, especially about preserving our scarce ground water, should vote no on ballot question #1, and they should not vote to re-elect Carmelo Scangarello who supports it. That question permits up to 100 percent of future open space taxes to be used, instead, to develop and maintain recreational facilities on lands acquired for conservation. The decision of Scangrello, and the Republican Council majority, insults the large majority of West Milford residents who, in 2000, voted for an open space tax restricted to buying land for conservation and passive recreation (e.g., hiking). Their decision also insults past Republican Mayor Maria Harkey, who proposed the Open Space Tax, and past Republican Mayor Carl Richko, who supported that, as well as pro-environment Republican, Undeclared, Independent and Democratic voters, who want to protect our township from big-time developers like K. Hovnanian. Question #1 permits future Open Space funds to be transferred away from buying land like the Eagle Ridge tract, in order to stop development on that land. If Eagle Ridge is developed, neighboring homes could lose their well water, and school taxes would increase by over $3 million per year. Eagle Ridge homes would also lose their own water within a short time. K. Hovnanian has filed in NJ Appeals court against the DEP, the WM Planning Board and Council, saying that those bodies are illegally taking away their right to develop the land, as they are “contract purchasers” on land owned by Mr. and Mrs. Winters. Some past case law rules that a real estate “takings” violates one’s constitutional rights. So, we need the future open space funds to help pay for that land. WM Parks and Recreation gets big bucks: $1.5 million per year from our property taxes, hundreds of thousands from government grants, tens of thousands from recreation fees (e.g., Bubbling Springs), and thousands from Jungle Habitat events (circus; fireworks). But, the total yearly open space tax (about $13/house) yields only about $150,000. Parks and Recreation does not need the small amount of open space money for recreation, as they can, and do, raise recreation fees and apply for grants. We can’t do that for open space funds. The two Democratic councilmen, who voted against ballot question #1, tried to get the pro-development Republican councilmen to agree either to limit the amount to be transferred out of open space funds, or to approve a separate recreation fund for $13/home. But Scangarello and his colleagues refused. Further, when asked by residents, Scangarello and his colleagues voted not to hire M-square, Inc., the company that did West Milford’s water study, to defend West Milford at the DEP public hearing on the Eagle Ridge water permit. None of those Councilmen even showed up at that DEP hearing in Town Hall to support about 100 residents who were there. I hope residents will join me to vote “NO” on Ballot Question #1, in order to protect future open space funds for buying Eagle Ridge and other large tracts with pending housing developments. I also hope that residents will not vote for Carmello Scangarello. Instead they should vote for the two pro-environment Democratic council candidates, Paul Marino and Andy Gargano, on Tues. Nov. 8. Finally, residents who have time, might make and post cardboard or wood lawn signs saying “Just Vote NO on Ballot Question #1.” Doris Aaronson West Milford